Just a few months ago I found myself experiencing a rather intense craving – almond butter. Actually, this was beyond just a craving, or so it seemed. It was as if there was living deep inside of me an insatiable hunger for the creamy, nutty heaven on earth, and that much of my day (this is a bit of an exaggeration, but I do have to convey my desire for the nut butter) was comprised of dreaming about how I was going to consume it and utterly devour it at my next meal. Anything and everything simply became a vehicle for more almond butter. Finally, it got to the point where I was eating the almond butter out of the jar, with whole almonds stirred inside for some extra almond crunch! This was nuts! (Did you get the pun?). Our almond budget was skyrocketing through the roof.
I decided to step back and take a second look at things. WHY was I becoming a bottomless pit for the innocent almond? Through some self-reflection, muscle testing/applied kinesiology, and some research, I eventually came to the conclusion that yes, I do love almond butter, but the need to continue to consume it in gargantuan proportions came from my body’s physiological need for more Vitamin E. Almonds are a great source of this vitamin, and with a bit of dietary analysis, I saw that my overall intake was lacking this important nutrient in other areas. This was a wonderful learning opportunity for me to dig deeper and discover more about myself.
Upon this simple yet profound discovery, I endeavored to add a lot more Swiss chard into my diet – it’s the perfect time of year for leafy greens and chard is another great source of Vitamin E, so why not back of the nuts just a tad…
Cravings, desires, hungers, etc. are all opportunities for us to learn more about ourselves. Interestingly, the cravings that we experience can and do happen for a variety of reasons – not just because our body is lacking Vitamin E or some other piece of nutrition.
The most common type of craving is emotional. We are all familiar with this. Positive or negative, emotions drive hunger and cravings, and emotions are STRONG. A stressful day at the office, a nightmare of a commute home, and a demanding voicemail on the machine upon our arrival leave us all reaching for (fill in the blank). We search for something that comforts us in our stress – it calms us down and makes us feel better. Or, on the flip side, if we’re having a great day, everything is going swimmingly and that all seems out of the ordinary for us, we reach for something that we feel is really “calling our name,” that we are fully aware will make us feel absolutely horrible – but we do it anyway because that’s what is familiar and calming to us. (This type of emotional and habitual craving is less common in everyday life, but there are many, many people who inflict this sort of self-punishment). There also exists the emotional craving that draws us back to memories of the past. “Oh, I just can’t help but crave that gingerbread at Christmastime – it’s just like Mom used to make.” Whether or not our colleague’s store-bought gingerbread is just like Mom’s (most likely it’s NOT), we are still associating the treat with fond memories of Christmas with the family and Mom’s love – so, in fact, we’re not really craving the gingerbread at all, but the EMOTIONAL tie to the bread, or cookie, or beer, etc. Any type of emotional craving is not for the food at all, it’s for the emotion associated with the food. Food in and of itself tends to be very emotional as well, hence these two things frequently become intermingled, intertwined, and often confused.
We may also experience hormonal cravings. Females AND males have emotional drives for food. Menstrual and menopausal hormonal changes may lead to certain types of cravings, but more common is the overconsumption of refined and processed sugars, flours, oils, and fats (junk food), that results in quite a bit of confusion all over the body. NOTHING about processed food is good – no, not even the flavor – there’s no convincing yourself. The chemical changes in the food result in chemical changes in the body and brain, which actually cause you to “crave” more. Dallas and Melissa Hartwig of The Whole9 Life do a great job of explaining the science behind this process in a manageable and understandable way in their book It Starts with Food. In any case, the more processed junk that is eaten, the more confused the body becomes, and the more it “thinks” it needs the junk, creating a viscous cycle. Not a good situation.
Finally, our bodies do experience true physiological cravings. Whether we’re low on Vitamin E and are reaching for almonds, or run to the milk chocolate in the cupboard to obtain more magnesium (NOT an excuse to eat more chocolate, my friends), or eat chicken liver incessantly for extra iron, our bodies are sending us a message that we need more!
With the range of types of cravings that exist, navigating how to feed those cravings becomes tricky. Is this something my body really needs? (After the 4th beer – no, probably not). Those Thin Mints are calling my name from the freezer, really! (Could we actually miss dipping those thin mints in ice cold milk with Dad at the counter just one time each year – and Dad is now gone so we’re really missing Dad instead of the Girl Scout cookies?) Or, is the fact that I’m truly enjoying eating steak every day this week, for every meal, an indication that I may be anemic?
In any case, cravings are an opportunity – to delve deeper into ourselves. Cravings are an invitation to notice that it may be, and usually is, about SO much more than food. We are Craving for More. We are Craving4More.
Love. Light. Freedom. Compassion. Companionship. Life.
Accept your invitation. Welcome the opportunity…
And, for the record, no matter how you shake it, creamy almond butter topped with crunchy almonds and a hint of Himalayan sea salt is pretty darn delicious!
*Thank you, Angela of Oh She Glows for the use of your gorgeous and beautiful photographs. You are amazing and I appreciate you so very much!