A few days ago I was on an early morning run with a group of friends. As we logged miles, the pace slowed until we were several minutes per mile below my usual gate. No big deal, I was there to be social anyway. Suddenly, out of no where I was tripping and literally nose planting into the sidewalk.
I should have been mortified and deeply embarrassed, but instead I was seriously confused. How did I trip?!
I mean, I’ve run over that crack in the sidewalk a hundred times. Literally. I saw it, and thought nothing of it until I was face first to concrete.
Everyone was horrified and I laughed it off. I’m fine. It’s going to be a challenge to put make-up on it for a week. Yes, my kids will call me skid mark.
The comments went around until the run was over.
Driving home, I realized the fall was a symptom of a very specific problem. I was bored, so I was being lazy with my form. I wasn’t lifting my feet; basically, I was shuffling. Ridiculous. I know better.
During the run, I ignored my body and continued to run at a slow pace because it’s what I thought I WANTED instead of giving myself the workout I needed.
We do the same thing all the time with nutrition. We don’t listen to our bodies needs. Instead, trying to be “good”, we eat what we think we WANT instead of deconstructing our cravings and giving our bodies what we NEED.
Health Hack #1: Raise Your Health IQ by Listening to Your Cravings
That’s right, LISTEN to your food cravings. Your body doesn’t make mistakes, so if you’re craving something, there’s a reason.
And, it’s probably a perfectly valid one.
In today’s “health” conscious frenzy, we are quick to say no when what we should really be saying is yes. But what are we saying yes to? Yes to chocolate and potato chips? Um, no. At least not yet. Understanding your cravings can be a key insight into yourself.
Notice, I didn’t say “a key insight into your health”.
Health snobs will tell you with an air of superiority that they “don’t get cravings” or “never give into cravings”. While many will say that willpower is the key to overcoming cravings, it is not always the best solution. Willpower can fail. But knowledge can stand the test of time.
Overcoming a craving is less important than understanding it. That’s the piece of the puzzle those health snobs are keeping to themselves.
So how does someone go about understanding a craving then choosing a healthy way to deal with it?
MAKE IT HAPPEN: Start by paying attention to the circumstances surrounding when this craving hits.
Is it mid-afternoon and you need a “pick me up”? In the evening when you’re relaxing? When you’re stressed? When is the most common moment for this particular craving?
Personal confession: I often crave sugary cereal late in the evening. Random, I know. Cereal is supposed to be a morning thing, and if we’re really being honest, it’s not something we should eat at all. But, that’s not the issue right now. Don’t judge my randomness.
The issue is, why am I craving something so specific at such a random time of day? If I really think things through, I’ll realize that it’s not actually the cereal I’m craving at all, it’s just the mind’s interpretation of what my body says it needs.
Let’s deconstruct this cereal issue. In this case, apparently I’m thirsty (dehydrated) and have a sweet tooth. The thought of the milk with something crunchy sounds perfect. That was the signal. I’ve also, in a much healthier moment, craved an apple for the same reason. If only all cravings came in healthy packages like apples!
In other words, the reason for the craving was valid.
The body doesn’t make mistakes. The mind does.
A craving is your minds way of asking for your body to be provided with a specific nutrient needed for daily operations. Check out this list of what cravings actually mean your body needs:
Your body knows exactly what it needs at all times of day, the signal that your brain gives you just might be muddled. Figuring out your craving can be a tricky process. Do you need something sweet? Perhaps you’ve gone all day without so much as a piece of fruit and your body really does want sugar. Are you craving a flavor or a texture? Warm or cold?
Health Hack #2 : Regain Control of Your Cravings by Noticing Patterns
MAKE IT HAPPEN: Start noticing cravings daily and try to figure them out in advance.
If a similar craving hits every day, try a pre-emptive strike by making a healthy choice from the list below. If you’ve deconstructed your craving correctly, you’ll skip today’s vending machine emergency.
Once you hear the real signal and satisfy the actual need, you will have conquered your craving.