Banish Cravings By Learning About Some Common Root Causes

Most of us see cravings as a sign of weakness, something we need to overcome to maintain good health or our ideal weight. But cravings can actually be a good thing if we know how to interpret them.

Our bodies are incredibly intelligent so it's important to recognize that cravings are actually our body's way of talking to us and letting us know we need something. There's an imbalance that needs to be corrected - emotional or physical. Now we just have to figure out what?

While I can't give you a comprehensive list identifying the source of every craving - that's very personal and unique to the individual. I can tell you that there are some common themes when it comes to identifying your body's cravings. The next time you find yourself up against a strong craving stop and thing about these eight things. What is your body telling you? How can you satisfy your craving in a healthy way and help your body function at it's best?


The eight primary causes of cravings are:

  1. Lack of primary food - Being dissatisfied with a relationship or having an inappropriate exercise routine (too much, too little, or the wrong type), being bored, stressed uninspired by a job, or lacking a spiritual practice may all cause emotional eating. Eating can be used as a substitute for entertainment or to fill the void of insufficient primary food. (If you aren't familiar with the term, let me start with what primary food isn't. It's not what we put on our plate. Primary food is healthy relationships, regular physical activity, a fulfilling career, and a spiritual practice. The things that fill our souls and satisfy our huger for life.) Here’s more on Primary Foods.

  2. Water - Lack of water can send the message that you are thirsty and on the verge of dehydration. Dehydration can manifest as a mild hunger, so the first thing to do when you get a craving is think about your water intake and consider drinking a full glass. It's important to note how much water you've consumed that day because excess water can also cause cravings for dry foods, so be sure that your water intake is balanced. Most of us need about half our body weight in oz of water a day. If you are exercising and sweating frequently you may benefit from adding electrolytes to your water or take an electrolyte tablet like Flow Sports Hydration. *Use code Heather for a discount.

  3. Yin/Yang imbalance - Certain food have more yin qualities (expansive) while other foods have more yang qualities (contractive). Eating foods that are either extremely yin or extremely yang causes cravings for the other side of the coin in order to maintain balance. For example, eating a diet too rich in sugar (yin) may cause cravings for meat (yang). Eating too many raw foods (yin) may cause cravings for extremely cooked (dehydrated) foods or vice versa.

  4. Inside coming out - Often times, cravings come from foods that we have recently eaten, foods eaten by our ancestors, or foods we ate regularly during childhood. A clever way to satisfy these cravings is to eat a healthier version of your ancestral or childhood foods. If you're like me and you crave french fries try these homemade sweet potato fries.

  5. Seasons - Often the body craves foods that balance the elements of the season. In the spring, people crave detoxifying foods like leafy greens or citrus foods. In the summer, people crave cooling foods like fruit, raw foods and ice cream, and in the fall people crave grounding foods like squash, onions and nuts. During winter, many crave hot and heat-producing foods like meat, oil and fat. Cravings can also be associated with the holidays for foods like turkey, eggnog or special sweets - something nostalgic for you. Search for healthy versions of seasonal or holiday favorites and give your body what's in craving. OR satisfy that nostalgia craving by reliving an old holiday tradition.

  6. Lack of nutrients - If the body has inadequate nutrients, it will produce odd cravings. For example, inadequate mineral levels produce cravings for salty foods like chips, and overall inadequate nutrition produces cravings for non-nutritional forms of energy, like caffeine. Even the most dedicated find it challenging to eat enough nutrient packed foods. I add 30 different fruits, veggies and superfoods to my daily nutrition with a supplement.

  7. Hormones - When women experience menstruation, pregnancy or menopause, fluctuating testosterone and estrogen levels may cause unique and unexplainable cravings. Try to have things in small amounts or satisfy them with healthy alternatives to the first food that comes to mind.

  8. De-evolution - When things are going extremely well, sometimes a self-sabotage syndrome happens. We crave foods that throw us off, thus creating more cravings to balance ourselves. This often happens from low blood-sugar and may result in strong mood swings. If you can't explain your cravings, take a look at your life. How are things going? Is it scary how smooth things seem? Could you be self-sabotaging. Also, check how often your nourishing your body. Could you be experiencing periods of low blood-sugar because you're going extended amounts of time without food?

The next time you have a craving, treat it as a loving message from your body instead of a weakness. As you learn to decipher and respond to your body's cravings, you will create a deep and lasting level of health and balance.

If you are dealing with significant and intense cravings and need support figuring out your body's signals and hitting the reset button, I'm here to help. Check out my Jump Start Consult and let's chat to get you back on track and feeling your best.

Heather Casey, CSCS Pn1 Nutrition Coach, IIN Health Coach