You can become your own wellness guru by noticing these six areas of your well-being.
It’s natural to crave sweet and rich foods and we instinctively know to allow ourselves this indulgence once in a while. But processed foods with added sugars and nutrient-poor ingredients have distanced us from our instincts. These foods are addictive and they hijack our brains and make us crave more of them.
At some point, we can make the empowered choice to silence the noise of diet culture and strangers on the internet telling us what we “should” be doing with our bodies. At some point, we take it back to basics. We enjoy food directly from nature: fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes, lean proteins, and lots of water. We’re likely to feel better eating a variety of nutrient-rich foods which leads to more contentment and happiness.
And you know what? Happiness is also addictive.
You will want to maintain this new homeostasis more often. So you’re likely to be more forgiving of yourself when you have a macaroon, a piece of coconut cream pie, or some fries. You may even allow yourself to ENJOY it. Because you *trust* yourself and know that you can go right back to that veggie-loaded stew anytime you want.
So, how do you harness the power of your sugar cravings to trust your instincts and body’s signals? Here are six areas of your well-being to start noticing right now:
1. Did you have enough nourishing foods today?
A bag of chips and a kale salad each has nutritional value. All foods do! It’s the nutrient-density of each food that matters. The question is, which will provide your body with the nutrients it needs? Your sugar cravings may be due to a lack of nutrients and an unbalanced blood sugar level. Have you eaten enough whole fats today like avocados and salmon? Perhaps your sugar craving is really your body’s need for more of the vitamins and minerals found in fruits like Vitamin C and potassium. Did you know that a craving for chocolate could be your body’s message that you’re lacking in magnesium?
2. Have you hydrated enough today?
When a sugar craving kicks in, ask yourself if you’re actually thirsty instead. Thirst is often confused with hunger. Drinking a glass of water can help you reach an equilibrium so you may better assess your body’s needs. Some people drink water only when they feel thirsty but there are other symptoms of dehydration- fatigue and lack of motivation. Staying hydrated is a three for one!
3. How’s your salt, cheese, and processed food intake?
I’m the last person to hate on salt! I naturally have low blood pressure so my body loves and craves salt. It is an essential mineral afterall. Yet, our bodies may crave sugar right after we’ve had too many salty treats. Cheese and other processed foods are also loaded with extra sodium that may be beyond your body’s needs. Notice if you’re craving sugar after having salty or processed foods.
4. Are you using sugar alternatives regularly?
I can write a book about this subject as I’m sure you’ve seen the slew of articles and blogs about sugar alternatives that promise to be the answer to anything from diabetes to obesity. While smart use of sugar substitutes can help reduce added sugar in our diets; a heavy reliance on them is costly. Here’s the main issue with sugar alternatives as it pertains to sugar cravings. Sugar alternatives are often many times sweeter than regular sugar. Even though they don’t raise the blood sugar level as quickly as regular sugar, they do signal to the brain that something sweet is coming its way. But the body never gets the hit of sugar it expects so the brain gets confused and may potentially make you crave sugar even more. And the regular use of these intensely sweet substitutes may create a higher tolerance for sweet foods which makes nutrient-dense, less-intensely sweet foods like fruit taste less appealing.
5. Is your gut flora out of balance?
Ah, this is a fun one and books have actually been written about it. For the sake of this topic, let’s focus on how your gut flora influences your sugar cravings. You read that right! There’s a certain type of gut bacteria that feeds on sugar. It may be releasing chemical signals to your brain telling you to eat more sugar so you can feed it. The good news is, you can totally alter your gut biome. Gut microbiota turns over every 30 minutes or so because bacteria has a short life cycle. That means you can start altering your gut flora in days. The quickest way to do this is to eat more fiber. There are over 300 kinds of fiber; and your gut loves variety so eat as many varieties of fruits and vegetables as you can (hello, dates). It’ll be hard in the beginning because you may still crave that Oreo but the longer you commit to feeding your gut biome, the easier it becomes. Soon enough, the bacteria that craves simple sugars will die out and you may start craving more nutrient-dense foods.
6. How’s your sleep?
We spend a third of our lives sleeping and I’ve always wondered why. While there’s tons of cool sleep research; it’s still a mysterious process. What we do know is that a lot of “rest and digest” activity happens during sleep. Your body gets rid of old cells and processes emotions. Lack of sleep on the other hand, can wreak havoc on our hormones and this where those food and sugar cravings come in. Ghrelin (increases), leptin (decreases), and cortisol(increases) are all impacted because of lack of sleep. So if you’re craving sugar, make sure you’re getting enough sleep (whatever that means for your particular needs in this moment).
Remember, it can be as simple as focusing on whole foods and skipping processed foods. That was always my intention when creating snacks made with whole ingredients. Having insight into the above areas of your life can give you a more comprehensive view of your well-being. This process of assessing our physical and mental state at any given moment can help us become more tuned into our needs. Which leads me to the idea that our sugar cravings can help us become more intuitive eaters. But what is intuitive eating exactly and how does it fit in with mindful eating? Stay tuned next month for a blog all about that!
Friends, I'm not a doctor, dietician or healthcare professional. The information in this post and any post on this website is for informational and educational purposes only and should not be construed as medical or professional advice. You should consult your physician or professional before making any lifestyle change to determine if it's right for your unique needs. This is particularly true if you have underlying medical conditions that require specialized medical advice. References and sources may be provided upon request. Please email us.