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Your Body Is Not Your Enemy: What To Learn From Cravings

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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

My body is brilliant.

It always knows how to operate and function well without ever needing a reminder.

To be honest, I really don't even understand or grasp what's going on in my body the majority of the time. How does my brain know how to type? How does my heart beat keep on going and going? I understand so very little.

In my reading and studying lately, I've been learning a lot about the major disconnect most people (at least Americans) have between their body, its signals, and how we understand it and respond to it. I notice this a lot in my own behaviors, and am working toward being more responsive and understanding when my body is trying to tell me something, and what to do with that feeling.

There is a vast cultural stigma about the BODY being what's wrong with a person. A person's BODY has cravings, the BODY directs a person to eat that whole tub of ice cream. The BODY gets cramps or bloating, and the BODY forces a person to stop running or exercising. It's the BODY that leads the PERSON astray.

Or so it is thought.

But in reality... our bodies are such amazing self-sustaining, self-healing organisms. They know what we want and need. And it's time we start tuning in and listening more carefully.

I'm learning about identifying the real signals behind cravings. When my body faces a sugar craving, it doesn't mean it's trying to sabotage me. It's not set-out to destroy my clean-eating goals for the day, nor is it wanting me to binge and feel guilt. It's communicating to me in the only way it knows and can most easily-- through hunger signals. When the craving strikes, I'm trying to look at what really may be contributing to it. The auto-response here on Spark is "EMOTIONAL EATING!!" which can be true in some instances. But for the majority of the time, I'm really not a flailing emotional maniac that needs to stuff my face with sugar... so I'm tuning into other factors.

I'm realizing that a huge contributor to sugar-cravings for me is my job, which (as you know) I'm in the process of "fixing" and changing in my life by going through these classes and training. I'm noticing that so often I crave sugar and sweets right after work-- on my drive home -- or immediately after dinner. The after-work cravings happen on both days when I'm working ALL DAY (so it's closer to dinner time when I drive home) and days when I leave work around lunch, or in the afternoon. I crave sweet things...

The reason being... sweet things are pleasurable and comforting to me. They give me immediate energy. In contrast, being at work is boring, draining, deflating, and overall quite unpleasant. I loathe being at work. I am surrounded by chemical smells of ink, grating sounds of the printers, cold cinder block walls, cold tile floors, and negative unhappy people. Nothing about my job is calming or enjoyable, nor is it energizing or uplifting. Sugar gives me the comfort and joy, energy and boost I want after being dragged down in my workplace.

Just coming to this realization that my cravings are most definitely related to my dissatisfaction with my job has given me great hope for the future as I continue to work toward a change in careers. Perhaps when I'm doing work I love, living a schedule that I control and enjoy, I will no longer face the same types of cravings!

The other time I crave sugar is after dinner. It's a habitual craving for me, meaning I have almost ALWAYS had dessert after dinner time (and even lunch meals) for my entire life. It was just part of the "balanced meal." (LOL). So, rather than it being about soothing myself (like after work), it's often out of habit. I finish my meal, get cleaned up, and then almost immediately feel myself drawn back to the kitchen to grab something sweet. Last night, I noticed this feeling and remembered it before sitting down to eat. Rather than letting myself wander back to the kitchen, I decided to just load up a big plate of salad to eat before my main dish, and then I found myself actually comfortably full after dinner, and not feeling like the dessert was necessary. This method of dealing with cravings is called "crowding out"-- adding MORE healthful items to your diet rather than simply eliminating a "bad food" or restricting its consumption.

My hope is that over the next year I will continue to become more and more in tune with the signals my body is sending, and appreciate them as ways of communication, rather than inflictions of self-sabotage. As I learn and grow, I'm excited to share bits and pieces with you all, and will be VERY excited to share my new website and business blog with you all when I officially get that up and going!

In closing today, I challenge you to pay attention to the subtle (or blatant!) signals your body is sending you, and start recognizing the WHY behind the WHAT, and the HOW to properly respond. What is you body telling you right now?

Mine is saying I'm hungry. :) Off to lunch! Have a great week!
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Excellent blog. Really thought-provoking.
    2299 days ago
    thanks for this reflection! i feel the same way!
    2304 days ago
  • SHEILA8383
    Great blog. Thank you for sharing.
    2308 days ago
    I think I'm gonna try this! My body is telling me to go to bed!
    2310 days ago
    Thank you so much for this Blog! It echoes what I have been learning about myself lately. Your balanced approach is so refreshing, it may have just eliminated the craving for a soda I was having!

    2312 days ago
    what a great blog! Thanks for sharing!
    TIP: when I crave sweet at night time, I reach for some gum :) it's a pleasant way to get it in w/out so many calories. My nephew offered me some 'mint chocolat chip' gum the other night and no kidding... it tasted like mint chocolate chip ice cream! Sometimes even brushing my teeth is a good step, as the toothpaste is sweet AND I don't like to eat anything after I just brushed.
    2312 days ago
    Great blog and much to think about.

    2312 days ago
  • THEIS58
    great blog. alot to think about!
    2312 days ago
    Great reminders! Thanks for the tip. It's something that I've tried to get in touch with more and more often than not it's because I'm bored. So I find something else to do. :)
    2312 days ago
    Thank you for your thoughts. Craving sweets and the reasons behind them make a lot of sense. I have recently switched jobs and have been craving different things. I will start journaling again to see what the triggers are. Have a wonderful day!

    Laurie emoticon
    2312 days ago
    That is exactly what I'm dealing with right now. I want something soothing right after work, and something sweet right after dinner. I am trying so hard to change my habits and do SO WELL until the end of the work day.

    I will definitely try the "crowding out" with dinner, I think it could help me a lot. May I ask how you are dealing with the just after work soothing thing? I see you are planning on changing jobs, but until then? Do you pack a healthy snack to nosh on? I am trying to "recreate" my afternoons and evenings so I can see some real progress, but I am struggling. I like my job (I'm an early childhood teacher), but it is stressful all the same.

    I know this is a long comment (with questions too!), but I would appreciate any and all advice! Good luck as you continue on your journey~
    2312 days ago
  • KIPPER15
    I try to remember that it takes 20 minutes to feel full and drink water or green tea to help fill myself up when I start to get cravings.
    sometimes it even works LOL. emoticon
    2312 days ago
    2312 days ago
  • HSWEIGHT2008
    Thanks for sharing Whit and for the friend add.

    Love your blogs!

    2313 days ago
  • DEDE824
    Loved this blog. Habits are things that I can easily acquire and then have a tough time reprogramming out of my life. I like your idea of "crowding out" the desserts. I know that works for me. emoticon
    2313 days ago
  • STARL_73
    When I worked at my depressing job, I would have a drink (or 2, or 3) when I got home. When I quit that job and began working for myself, I continued the had become a habit.
    One day (when I didn't get a buzz off of 2 glasses anymore), I realized I had built up quite a tolerance. Then I realized what I was doing. I thought about it. I worried I was becoming an alcoholic and thought it through. Major thought. My father has an addictive personality, and I always worry I may carry that trait. But I realized, honestly, that I drank in the evenings out of habit, not need.
    So I stopped. I switched to tea. Because that's what I wanted - The comforting relaxation I attached to sipping on something. Perhaps, when i was at the bad place, the reason was different. But now, it was just to sip something.
    I still have a glass of wine when I feel like it, but that's to enjoy the taste. More often then not, you can find me in the evenings relaxing with a big mug of tea.

    I've learned, every time my body wants something - I think it through and figure out exactly what it wants. More often than not, it's not my first inclination.
    2314 days ago
  • EUNIQ3
    That was very interesting. Thanks for sharing!!
    2314 days ago
    Definitely something to think about. I will be paying close attention from now on!!!
    2314 days ago
    Yes! Let's encourage our minds to work WITH our bodies, rather than AGAINST.

    This year I've learned and practiced (and practiced, and practiced...well, you get the picture) new habits. When I feel the urge to eat for any reason other than hunger, I assess why. Sometimes I give in, but most of the time, I take an action other than eating to address the need.

    This seems so simple, and yet I know I will face this challenge for the rest of my life.
    It does feel more natural, over time.

    (BTW - It's worth mentioning that one does not have to be an emotional person to be an emotional overeater, but that is a subject for another blog post.)
    2314 days ago
  • LINDY2202
    Excellent blog, makes a lot of sense!!!! Great perspective!
    2314 days ago
    Love your blog! Thanks for sharing! emoticon Luba
    2314 days ago
    Your blog was very interesting to me. There are some things that are habitual for me. I LOVE the background of your page.
    2314 days ago
    Thank you for sharing emoticon
    2314 days ago
    emoticon emoticon
    2314 days ago
    This actually works for me every time, except for when I have a hypoglycemic event. As a diabetic, I am keeping to a closely controlled diet and Insulin regimen. 99% of the time it works just like it should and for the past five years I've maintained an HgA1c measurement between 5.9 and 6.1 ("Normal" is below 5.9, the American Diabetes Association says 7.0 is OK for diabetics).

    In that 1% of the time, I will be concentrating and doing something, notice that I am getting dizzy and possibly sweating more than expected, and by the time I get to the table and check my blood sugar, it will be very low (70 is considered the bottom of the normal range 120 the high end), as low as 27 on one occasion.

    At that level I need carbs (sugar) in the quickest way I can get them. I have been known to drink a quart of orange juice and/or devour a half gallon of ice cream. My wife can tell you that I am not really able to focus on anything until my blood sugar gets back up over 48 or so.

    Since the carbs take a while to break down into glycogen, by the time I can back off the insanity, I will have eaten many more calories then I physically needed, but my brain won't let go.

    The first time this happened, I frightened myself, so I immediately called my Endocrinologist. He assured me I wasn't losing my mind, that it was the brains way of protecting itself. When it started, no one was successful in stopping it. What I had to do was figure the amount I devoured above my actual needs, then take an Insulin bolus to counteract those carbs in my body. I rapidly learned how to do that.

    He also asked me to check my meter and read him the figure, because almost all of the diabetics he knew would have been unconscious with a blood glucose that low. I checked my meter, it WAS 27. I thought I could hear him making the sign of the cross through the telephone.

    I'll almost always go over my range on those days, both in calories and fat, so for the next 2-3 days I consume large amounts of fresh vegetables, skim milk and non-fat cottage cheese to get my averages back down in range for the week.
    2314 days ago
    This is a great take on the BODY, the MIND is definitely driving cravings also. The idea of using the mind to figure out the body is an excellent phenomenon. With Weight Loss Surgeries prevalent in this day in age, I can't help but notice many who it didn't work for because it was their stomach that was operated on and their mind never changed. The mind must change in order for the body to maintain a weight loss.
    2314 days ago
    Gosh... your post resonated with me. I work in a printing atmosphere, too- it also is boring, draining, unrewarding. Unlike you, I don't have a plan of escape- but I need one.

    I also crave food to help me get through the day.

    Good luck to you and you look fantastic! Very inspiring!
    2315 days ago
  • LYANNA75
    Great advice! I always went with the "emotional eating" thing, but, like you, I'm not an emotional person! So I too will have to look to the other reasons that I might over eat.
    2315 days ago
    Very good! Thanks for sharing this ...
    2315 days ago
    Love this blog.
    2315 days ago
    emoticon very interesting and informative. good luck on your journey to a healthier you! emoticon
    2315 days ago
    Everything you say makes sense to me. And I especially like the concept of "crowding out" to restrain my impulses. I have recently had an "aha" moment while driving home from a good job interview. I wanted to pick up some Mexican food on the way home to celebrate. But then I stopped myself and asked why do I celebrate and reward with food? It was at that moment that I made a "conscious" decision to use lingerie as a celebrate/reward move instead of food. Somehow, I think my body will thank me in the long run.
    2315 days ago
  • NUMD97
    I like the introspection to better understand your cravings.

    One comment though: Don't discount cortisol (the stress hormone) to trigger sugar cravings. If you are experiencing a lot of stress on the job, that could be one more element in play here.

    Just a thought.

    Thanks for sharing, and much continued success as your journey to a healthful lifestyle continues,

    2315 days ago
  • REENIE131
    Good advice. The human body is such an amazing machine. We'd all be better off to listen to it. Unfortunately, we've all been programmed to not listen.
    2315 days ago
    Sounds like a plan!
    2315 days ago
    Great! Our bodies are amazing!!
    2315 days ago
  • JIBBIE49
    Read Gary Taubes' wonderful book "WHY WE GET FAT AND WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT" and you will learn about cravings. INSULIN is the issues with our storing fat, and GHERLIN is the hormone the stomach pumps out for hunger. With all the processed foods we have in our diet, the body gets the wrong message. His book came from five years of research on why we are so fat now compared to 50 years ago. I got a copy from the library.
    2315 days ago
    emoticon emoticon
    2315 days ago
    Thanks for sharing....
    2315 days ago
    Crowding Out, I like that idea.

    I have a problem with recognizing why I eat something, I shouldn't be eating. I decided, to really think about it before I have it and seeing if I could fulfill the need with something else, because of your blog.

    Thank You
    2315 days ago
    Great!! I have been struggling with this myself. And after reading this article, I'm rethinking my everything in moderation line of thinking. Instead of thinking I need to satisfy the craving - I should try to figure out what my body is trying to say.

    I hope you don't mind, but I want to share this with other Sparkers!

    2315 days ago
    I do the same things! Wow, you really nailed it! Thanks for opening my eyes!
    2315 days ago
    Crowding Out is a good tip. Thanks! I have also noticed that if I eat more substantially at dinner I don't crave dessert. Thanks for a good blog read this morning! emoticon
    2315 days ago
    I love your profile background, the fruit look so luscious. I been told that craving sugar is natural. In nature, we would eat fruits to satisfy this craving. Its excessive the amount of refine sugar we eat in modern times. I think the serotonin is also effected by sugar, so when you leave work after being in that negative environment you need a lift. I read on SP that cucumber is a good afternoon pick me up. I also would suggest a fruit shake with a protein powder. I use Dole frozen fruit shake and whey protein. The fruit will give you a short burst of energy plus all those vitamins. The protein will give you a longer lasting pick me up. I find its hard for me to get 80 - 100 grams of protein a day without using whey protein powder.
    2315 days ago
    My body and mind both are telling me that d rain has almost stopped- Go out for your weekend 5 K walk- FAST!!!
    2315 days ago
  • DILLIGAD1956
    Interesting concept and an enjoyable read. Thanks for sharing.
    2315 days ago
    Definitely an eye-opening blog. Cravings are something we all experience, from time to time. emoticon emoticon emoticon
    2315 days ago
    Great blog. I can relate to the sugar cravings after dinner. I have that same mentality of having dessert after dinner. Good to know how to not always listen to the craving and feed your body with something healthy that will satisfy the need.
    2315 days ago
    Wow, thank you. I have been trying to pay attention to this as I do think your body gives you signals all day about all kinds of things but we tend not to listen. I really liked that you shared some examples of what your body is telling you because it helps me to think more about how my body is talking.
    2315 days ago
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