How to Decode Food Cravings:
A Holistic Apporach


Are you tired of battling relentless food cravings that seem to undermine your efforts? 

Do these cravings affect your self-esteem and contribute to unwanted weight gain? 

If these concerns resonate with you, keep reading. This article is your guide to a holistic approach in understanding and managing those cravings. Let’s explore why cravings are not weaknesses and decode the messages they carry.

Ready? Let’s dive in! 

The Holistic View:
Nurturing Mind, Body, and Spirit

In the realm of holistic wellness, your health extends beyond physical appearance to encompass mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. It’s a synergy of factors including your career, relationships, and movement. 

Our careers are part of our nutrition because they allow us to do what we love and live our lives. Spirituality is nurturing us because it gives us meaning, purpose and connection to something greater than ourselves. Our relationships nurture us by giving us a sense of family and a deeper human connection. The way we move our bodies through physical activity also nurtures us because it relieves our stress and keeps us healthy.  

When any of these aspects are out of alignment, it can impact your eating habits. For instance, unmet emotional needs might drive us to seek comfort in food. The holistic approach recognizes that achieving balance in these areas is essential for a nourished and satisfied life.

Personal Revelation:
A Lesson from Sugar Cravings

Back in 2006, I was serving in the UN Army in Kosovo. We had the best dining center offering fresh and nutritious foods. Despite eating well, a curious thing happened – I found myself craving a full chocolate bar after every meal. I even started stocking desserts in my locker for moments when the dining center wasn’t open. One day, I went a bit overboard, and I ate so many sweets that my body started shaking. The next thing I knew, I was in a military ambulance and then in the hospital, where my blood sugar levels were off the charts. It puzzled me; I was eating well, so why the intense sugar cravings?

Reflecting on my own experience, I realized it wasn’t just about the physical need for sweetness. It was more of a psychological sensation, a feeling of being confined within the constraints of a military camp that limited my freedom. Given my strong value for independence, this craving was a manifestation of a deeper need for individual freedom. I discovered that our cravings often represent our body’s attempt to address underlying imbalances. This understanding prompted a shift in my approach, acknowledging that cravings are not mere weaknesses but valuable signals guiding us toward internal harmony.

The Mind-Body Relationship

Our minds play a pivotal role in shaping our cravings and, consequently, our eating behaviors. 

When we experience satisfaction and contentment in our lives, whether it be through meaningful work, positive relationships, or engaging activities, our minds are less likely to seek solace in food. 

Studies in neuroscience have shown that a fulfilled mind is less prone to impulsive and emotional eating, leading to a more balanced and healthier approach to nutrition.

That Powerful Instinct

Why is it that our instinctual food choices are so powerful and unruly? Why can’t we control them easily? These cravings are not a product of conscious thought; they come from a deeper place within us.

As a Certified Integrative Nutrition and Health Coach, I’ve come to recognize this untamed part of ourselves as an inner guide to health and happiness. This innate wisdom constantly strives to make us feel better by urging us to eat foods that temporarily alleviate physical tension, boost energy, and improve mood. It monitors our physical, emotional, and psychological states, striving to create balance, harmony, and happiness. Cravings represent your body’s attempt to regulate your inner state, utilizing food as a form of self-prescribed medicine.

The Trust Factor

Imagine this: Your body has its own language, and it’s constantly trying to communicate with you. The problem is, many of us don’t trust it. When I asked one of my clients about her trust in her body, she hesitated, saying, “Not very much.”

“Why not?” I probed.

“Because it’s always craving foods that get me into trouble,” she admitted, a hint of disappointment in her voice.

This scenario might sound familiar. We’ve been conditioned to believe that our cravings are our fault—a flaw in our body and willpower. Diet books suggest that to achieve weight loss and better health, we must control our cravings and follow their strict rules. We accept these ideas, even though our previous diets failed us.

But it’s time to shift the blame where it belongs. It’s not your fault. The diet itself is flawed. It sets unrealistic expectations and unfairly puts the responsibility on your shoulders.

Decoding Your Cravings

Let’s dive into the practical side of things. When a craving strikes, pause for a moment and ask yourself, “What’s really going on here?” Instead of impulsively reaching for something you know isn’t good for you, slow down, take a deep breath, and reassess the situation. Start with the FLAVOR.

1) Craving Sweet Foods?

Craving sweet flavors? It’s entirely natural, often triggered by low energy, high stress, dropping blood sugar, unhealthy habits, or emotional hunger.

Instead of indulging in sugary delights like chocolate, cookies, and pastries, opt for a more satisfying options: a smoothie blended with fruit and nut butter. Or, if you’re in the mood for something heartier, consider cookies or pastries made from whole grain flour with minimal added sugar.

Have you heard of the concept CROWDING OUT? It’s simple yet effective. Focus on adding healthier items to your diet rather than cutting out the less healthy ones.

For instance, certain veggies like corn, carrots, onions, beets, winter squash, sweet potatoes, and yams have a natural sweetness when cooked. Loading up on these sweet veggies can help overcome your cravings without resorting to sugary, processed snacks.

Now, let’s talk sweeteners. My personal favorite is organic maple syrup. It’s a natural powerhouse packed with antioxidants and a host of health benefits. Plus, it’s easy on the digestive system and quick to absorb. Keep it handy in your kitchen for tea, breakfast bowls, or baking adventures.

Here’s a handy tip: always know the source of your sweeteners. Product marketing can be deceiving. If you’re exploring alternatives to refined sugar, check out options like coconut sugar and stevia at local health food stores like Whole Foods or Sprouts Farmers Market. Experiment and find what suits your taste and health goals.

Remember, you have choices to satisfy your sweet cravings. Make choices that align with your ideal self and contribute to a healthier you!

2) Craving Salty Foods?

Before you dive into that bag of chips or pretzels, think minerals. Sea salt, with its 60 trace minerals, is a game-changer compared to refined table salt. Do you want to game it up? Pink Himalayan Salt contains “all 84 essential trace elements required by the body” according to Carolyn Dean, MD. Instead of chips, opt for a variety of mineral-rich veggies, especially those leafy greens. And here’s a little secret: add high-quality Himalayan salt to your cooking and toss in some sea vegetables for that naturally salty kick. I personally love using wild kombu while cooking grains or lentils; it’s a mineral powerhouse!

3) Craving Bitter Foods?

Bitter foods can aid digestion and stimulate the production of digestive juices. If you’re craving bitterness, try incorporating dark leafy greens like dandelion, mustard greens, arugula, kale, and collards into your meals. For those who prefer not to drink coffee or alcohol, consider adding cacao nibs to your morning smoothies.

Feeling a bit bitter? It might be your body’s way of asking for a digestion boost. Skip the coffee and dark beers and embrace dark leafy greens like dandelion, kale, or collards. They’ll help your body break down fat and promote healthy digestion. For those who prefer not to drink coffee or alcohol – like me -, throw some cacao nibs into your morning smoothie for a burst of antioxidants and a touch of bitterness.

4) Craving Pungent Flavors?

In some Asian cuisines, you’ll often find dishes bursting with pungent flavors that serve as natural digestive aids. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) recognizes ginger as an herb beneficial for both the large intestine and lungs. It plays a role in enhancing their function and supporting healing.

So, when you’re craving for some rich and saucy Chinese fare, it might just be your body’s way of seeking the healing properties of these pungent flavors. In such moments, consider grating fresh ginger onto your vegetables or into your soup. You can also turn to other flavorful options like cayenne, scallions, onions, leeks, garlic, and pepper to satisfy that craving. Your taste buds and body will thank you!

5) Craving Spicy Foods?

Looking for a burst of flavors, from subtle to fiery? Processed foods, often sitting on shelves for ages, tend to lack that vibrant taste. They can also be loaded with unhealthy fats, potentially leading to weight gain and sluggishness. As time goes by, this kind of diet can make your blood thicker and slow down circulation, leaving your body feeling cool and stagnant.

When you start craving spice, do not turn to pizza or hot Mexican spices. These extreme foods warm the body but also create a lot of stressful, chaotic energy. Instead try a spicy vegan chili which is packed with flavor and plant-based protein like beans. My personal favorites are red lentil soup with a kick of heat from chili flakes AND sautéed mushrooms with hot red pepper flakes. 

final thoughts

Your cravings serve as your body’s language, articulating its needs. Taking the first step in understanding your body better involves trusting these signals. Rather than engaging in a battle to control your cravings, the key lies in listening and making choices that contribute to your overall well-being.

Ready to embark on a deeper exploration of your cravings and discover how they can lead you to a healthier, happier life? If so, schedule your complimentary 15-minute coaching session at the bottom below.

During our call, we’ll work collaboratively to decode your cravings, and as a Certified Integrative Nutrition and Health Coach (INHC), I’ll offer personalized insights and guidance. 

Together, we’ll navigate the path to a healthier, happier you. It’s time to trust your body and embrace the inherent wisdom within! Schedule your free coaching session today.

"When the mind is satisfied, the body quits craving too much food."