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Sunday, August 3, 2014

Cracking the Cravings Code

On Thursday, July 31st, Kerrie Martin, Founder and Holistic Health Coach of Live in Rhythm, taught us a little bit about the hidden meanings behind our cravings and how to deal with them in a proactive and gentle way.

Click here to see Kerrie Martin of Live in Rhythm discuss "Cracking the Cravings Code"

During the discussion amongst a small group of women, we explored which foods and spices help with sugar and chocolate cravings. We were all excited to hear from Kerrie as she has a diverse background in weight loss coaching, holistic health counseling, mind-body nutrition, dynamic eating psychology, and personal development.

Kerrie began the discussion speaking about her sugar habits in college.  She recalled that she would often find herself getting into stashes of cookies, chocolate, or Pop tarts when she needed a break or an energy boost.  At times she felt out of control in that she couldn’t have “just one”.  Eating one sugary thing would lead her to want more.  Years later when studying nutrition and health coaching she realized that one of the main reasons she was craving so much sugar was that her diet was most likely deficient in protein and good fats.  Because her body wasn’t getting enough of these macro-nutrients her body was looking for sustenance in the wrong place!  As she changed her diet to emphasize more high quality protein and healthy fat she noticed a shift in how much sugar she wanted.  This was breakthrough and the experience sparked an interest in her as to why we humans crave what we do and how we can learn to decode the messages our cravings are sending so we can deal with them in a proactive and nourishing way.

All of us sitting around the table nodded our heads, in united identification, like she was telling us an all too familiar story about our own sugar  cravings. Sugar was the one craving that connected all of us around the table. We didn't feel alone in our love of sweets. We learned that sometimes using spices in our cooking can add a certain creativity, color, natural blood sugar stabilization. For example, cinnamon is a great way to address sugar cravings and high blood sugar issues. Kerrie gave us some great tips for dealing with sugar addiction from Ann Louse Gittleman's Get the Sugar Out: 501 Simple Ways to Cut the Sugar Out of Any Diet. Here are a few pointers that stood out to me:
  • Experiment with spices. Coriander, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and cardamom will naturally sweeten your foods and reduce cravings. 
  • Drink water. Sometimes sweet cravings are a sign of dehydration. Before you go for the sugar, have a glass of water and then wait a few minutes to see what happens. 
  • Reduce or eliminate coffee. The ups and downs of caffeine include dehydration and blood sugar swings, causing sugar cravings to be more frequent. 
  • Use gentle sweets. Avoid chemicalized, artificial sweeteners and foods with added sugar. Use gentle sweeteners like maple sugar, brown rice syrup, dried fruit, stevia, or agave nectar. 
  • Slow down and find sweetness in non-food ways! Your body does not biologically need sugar, but it does long for hugs, time with friends, outside time, workouts, massages, etc. When life becomes sweet enough itself, no additives are needed.
What we learned was that often cravings indicate that our body is deficient in something. A craving is our body's way of communicating something to us. Sugar cravings can indicate that we are not getting enough protein, or even, that we may be getting too much protein. When we have cravings, it's our body's way of trying to find balance.

Sugar is a habitual pattern that we tend to be drawn to. Ice cream, for example, can be a way we soothe ourselves, because it's nice and sweet. The discussion moved to  the benefits of chocolate in its natural form, and how it can be good for you. Chocolate, in its raw form, is high in magnesium and anti-oxidants, and causes elevated mood.  Listed below is a delicious raw chocolate recipes for us to try.

When you have sweets, relax about it, she said, "because the chemicals you create worrying about it and resisting it can be more toxic than the sweet itself."  Accept yourself when you eat it. If you notice you have had a lot of sugar, use some foods to re-balance your body. Sugar cravings indicate that we may need more yin. See the balance chart below.

It takes a lot for your body to process the sugar. Miso and leafy greens help to re-balance your body and alkalize your blood and your system when you eat too much sugar.

We were challenged us to ask ourselves the question, "Am I really hungry? What am I really needing here? Is there some spiritual or emotional fulfillment that we might be seeking?"

Cravings can also be a sign that we want to create ritual in our lives. For those of us who crave after dinner sweets, we might be looking to create a comforting ritual. With more and more of us living away from our families, away from family traditions, some of us may be seeking to create our own rituals to find comfort in. Having a glass of tea with rose petals and lavender, for example, can be a personal ritual that creates calmness and serenity in our lives.

Cracking the cravings code turned into cracking the sugar cravings code, and was a real treat for all of us, and an opportunity to connect with a wonderful holistic health coach who guided us through the world of cravings. We are looking forward to Kerrie's upcoming series in the Fall on self-care for women. 

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