Changing the way we listen to our cravings
Our cravings are vital pieces of information and yet more often than not we ignore them, judge them and bat them away. Causing them to become bigger and more ferocious. If we can begin to start listening to them (and I mean REALLY listen) we can kick-start a process of understanding ourselves better and strengthening the communication line between our bodies, hearts and mind.
Let me begin by telling you a story.
A few years back now I came out of a very painful relationship, one that was in no way good or right for me, but nonetheless, I pined for my ex like a lost puppy dog. An amazing friend of mine suggested something to me that literally transformed the way I listened to myself to this very day. The conversation went like this:
Lovely friend: “Darling Nicky, are you sure you are missing ‘him’? Or are you missing the qualities about ‘him’ that you found nourishing for you?”
Me: (Looking dumbfounded) “What do you mean lovely friend? I am pretty sure I am missing ‘HIM’!
Lovely friend: “I mean, if this person hurt you and was in no way good for you, maybe you are not missing ‘him’ as you think you are? Maybe you are missing the good qualities about the relationship that you would like again. Why don’t you try an exercise: write down a list of all the qualities of the relationship you are missing and then come back and read them to me.
As I wrote this list, the ‘craving’ for this guy started to separate from being about ‘him’ to being about qualities that I wanted in my life. Laughing with someone, feeling connected, feeling loved and loving someone else. It was an amazing moment for me as I realised that all these could be met in other healthy ways.
Since then I have experienced this similar sensation many times with food.
A few months back on a huge cooking day for Tiosk I started experiencing the strongest craving for a steak. I hadn’t eaten a steak in quite a long time and the craving was so strong that I could literally see and taste the steak in front of me. So I stopped everything for a moment to check in with myself and my body.
Me: Hi body, do you REALLY want steak?
Me: But you don’t really eat meat. And a steak? That’s pretty full on meat.
Body: I WANT STEAK.
Me: Ok. I hear you.
Now as I am a Macrobiotic Chef and teach all about Macrobiotics and eating and living a Wholefood’s, Plant-Based diet & lifestyle, I had many conflicting thoughts going on in my head. “I can’t eat steak”, “it’s not right and not good for me”, “it’s bad full stop”. But as I had made a commitment to myself years ago that I would not ignore my body I payed attention. I told myself and my body that if the craving was still there after a week I would go and find the best possible steak I could, the best quality around, and I would order one and allow myself to enjoy every mouthful. But first I would try and satisfy the craving in a way that I felt would be more nourishing than just eating a steak. My body felt satisfied with this decision.
When I got home I checked in with myself again and asked these few questions:
1. What qualities from the steak are you craving so much? A feeling of strength, power, a strong intake of energy.
2. Why do you think that you are in need of these strong qualities? I’m feeling so tired, over-worked, my body feels exhausted, undernourished and weak.
3. How can I take care of these needs for you? Lots of rest, to work less, slow down more, lots and lots of sleep. Eat more strengthening foods, more minerals, more wholegrains and proteins.
Now, I knew that the kind of rest and sleep I needed was way more than just one night or so. I had spent the past few years growing a baby, then bringing up and nourishing a baby from my body, I then started cooking for Tiosk and teaching again. To really take care of myself I would need to make some big changes in my life, which wasn’t going to happen in a week. So I did the best I could. I rested more, I ate a lot more seaweed, wholegrains, mineral enriched dishes and more fish then I would usually eat. I also found emotional support from the loving people in my life.
In this case though, I knew it wouldn’t be enough as I was still having to work really hard. A week later my craving for steak was still there, so I called up a friend and invited her out for dinner. Booked a table at an amazing steak restaurant, ordered an 8oz steak (that had been free ranged, grass-fed and treated in the best possible way) and enjoyed and savoured every single mouthful. It felt both wonderful and delicious and I have not had a single craving for steak since. This was almost 5 months ago.
Yet this wasn’t the end of it, I then had to make an action plan to honour my emotional & physical needs that had been calling out for help through this craving. I made a plan to change my work schedule so I could slow down more and get more rest, I ate more fish, sea vegetables and wholegrains regularly and I started to wean my 20 month old daughter off my breast so I could start replenishing my energy. Today, 5 months later, my life looks very different and I am feeling a lot more nourished, loved and cared for by myself. All because I paid attention to that one craving. Isn’t that amazing!!!
I never tell my students to cut anything out of their diet, instead I teach them to listen more, in the way that I’m inviting you to, so that we can start making really loving and empowered choices for our health, hearts and wellbeing. If you eat a sugar-filled chocolate cake, that’s not ‘bad’, just use the experience to learn more about yourself. Pay attention to how the cake or the sugar feels for you. Does it feel good, do you feel empowered and well? Or does it feel awful? Notice what was happening before you ate it too.
Judgment, beating ourselves up, ignoring ourselves – these are all useless tools that will only damage the relationship we have with ourselves more. Here are just a few regular cravings that I hear my students and friends experience a lot, and some suggestions on what could be going on underneath:
Coffee or Caffeine Cravings: Are you pushing yourself? Do you need to slow down and have a rest day, a pyjama day (or two) just pampering yourself? Or are you feeling nervous, anxious, scared and need support from a loved one? Could you have a green tea and a nap instead?
Sugar, cake & chocolate cravings: Have you given out too much lately? Or are you giving out all the time and not replenishing your energy by receiving love and support yourself? Do you need a hug? Could you make yourself a delicious home-baked cake free of refined sugar and dairy? or How about a comforting bowl of sweet pumpkin soup to go with that hug?
Meat Cravings: See my story on my steak craving.
Dairy & Cheese Cravings: Do you need some richness in your life? Do you need more connection with others around you? A feeling of community? Do you need some comfort? Are you feeling lonely? Isolated? How about having some almond butter on sourdough bread and joining a weekly group? Or some tempura vegetables and starting a team sport?
There is a whole world of information in our cravings. The next time you have one try checking in with yourself, ask yourself the 3 questions that I asked above and follow the stages that I took. Then really try and listen to yourself.
Let me know how it goes.
Oh, and please remember this. There is no perfect way to do this, just be loving no matter what.
Lots of Love Nx