One of the common questions I hear, is “ What does it mean when I crave this or that food?’
In my understanding, cravings are a sign that the body is in need of a particular substance and it´s nutritional, emotional or energetic value.
When the need comes from a nutrient deficiency in the body, we need to look at what kind of foods are we feeding our bodies with. Based on the theory of expansive and contractive food, or in oriental language Yin & Yang, too many contractive foods like salty foods or high content protein foods will create a need, or a craving of more expansive foods like sugar or alcohol and vice-versa. Our bodies will always look for balance, sometimes in an imbalanced way. This is what we call a craving.
Most common cravings are the ones for sweet, salty and fried foods. My advice is to substitute those tastes or textures with healthier options. For example if salty snacks are your favorite as fries or Crips, try miso soups, crisp nori (the seaweed used in sushi) or simply sea salt nuts. If you are more of a sweet tooth and crave sugar try to eat more fruit. If a sugary pastry is your reward at the end of the day, try a whole grain toast with maple syrup or honey. There is always a healthy option around the corner.
Attached to the craving experience, there is an emotional quality associated with that food, meaning how we feel when we eat certain foods. This is where we can practice mindfulness and one of the principles of yoga – observing without judgment. That is the only way we can prevent ourselves from engaging in eating behaviors that do not benefit us and slowly dissolve our entrapment. Yoga teaches us to be aware of our breath and how the yogic breathing calms the mind from any reactionary action. So before you take a bite of that daily muffin, stop, breath for 1 minute while focusing on exhalation and just feel if you need it. If you do, go ahead and do the same breathing awareness exercise the next day.
Our eating habits condition our thought patterns and yoga can help us to change those habits has we become more sensitive and connected to what our bodies needs. At the end of the day, there´s no problem if you eat chocolate, the question that we need to ask ourselves is: do I need it every day? It is in this answer that we can find out what kind of cravings we have and take the appropriate steps to take charge of our habitual responses.