How to curb your food cravings

  • Daily choices: food cravings can give interesting insights into our nutritional needs

    Daily choices: food cravings can give interesting insights into our nutritional needs

What are your cravings telling you? Iím writing this from the sofa again ...

Gotta love mobile phones for making it possible to type horizontally. Ironically Iím recovering from a week of launching Beat the Couch and all the admin involved with getting our beginner runners on the road.

We have an amazing crew of 75; the youngest is 8 and the oldest is 67. Itís the best feeling to see this group come together and I canít wait to see what occurs over the next ten weeks!

Hopefully, not too many dramas but thereís always some! Five kilometres may not seem all that far to some, but itís a huge accomplishment for our crew. Ten weeks is a relatively long time to maintain motivation for something thatís often hard and uncomfortable.

Half of the challenge is physical, but it requires mental grit too. So, when life throws a curveball, whether itís hurricanes, job loss, illness, grief, a big dose of apathy or relationship blues, itís hard to keep going. Weíve seen it all and every single season weíre amazed at the determination.

The good thing is that running ďgives backĒ. If you put in the work, you get a whole lot of pride and self-belief in return. Following through proves to you (and the rest of the world) that you have what it takes to chase down your goal. Thatís an amazing feeling at whatever level you perform and itís a mindset thatís transferable across all areas of life.

At the end of Beat the Couch, we always say: ďJust look at what you achieved in the last ten weeks, what are you going to do with the next ten?Ē

Emily Nagel is also asked whatís coming next; a lot. I went this week to see her talk about her experience in the Volvo Ocean Race. Bermudaís own, Emily became the youngest female competitor to take part in this event. Her team covered 45,000 nautical miles over nine months.

They crossed every major ocean, rounding both the Cape of Good Hope and the legendary Cape Horn. The weather was wild and she spent most of her time soaked. She dislocated her shoulder on board, was massively sleep deprived, she was scared and exhausted but exhilarated too; they had six podium finishes and set a new speed record. Did I mention sheís only 24?

After that, itís tempting to say you have nothing left to prove, but Iím pretty sure that wonít be her mandate. Seems unlikely, somehow!

Part of Emilyís job on the boat was to organise everyoneís food. Given the limited (er, non-existent) food prep area and how light they had to travel, their meals were freeze-dried. It might seems exciting to eat like an astronaut, but she had some serious cravings for fresh fruit and veg. (Way better than the guys who were just craving burgers. Obviously, I was impressed, ha!)

I think cravings are really interesting, giving us interesting insights into our nutritional needs whether those are macro or micronutrient specific.

Emily craved avocados and carrots, which got me thinking. Avocado is rich in vitamin E (healing) and packed full of energy-dense good fats and slow-releasing natural sugars. Carrots, I donít know Ö beta-carotene for night vision? Maybe just a taste of home? Something just fresh, crisp and crunchy after another freeze-dried Bolognese? Who knows! Certainly in the clinic Iíve seen some interesting patterns emerge. Have a look at the list below and see what your cravings are telling YOU!

1, Wanting what you canít have

The age-old human conundrum. Weíre just not very good at being told no, are we? For some of us more than others, if we canít have something, we just want it more.

When it comes to nutrition, imagine being told that you could ONLY eat chocolate, doughnuts and other junk. Youíre not allowed anything else. How soon before you start craving a salad?

Sometimes, understanding our mentality is important for managing our cravings. Donít let your body play that trick. Build in occasional junk to an otherwise outrageously good diet and you donít have to feel bad. Better still, make a ďcleanĒ version; think home-made chocolate cake with organic ingredients vs a piece of hyper-processed, synthetic cake.

2, Endless junk

When weíre stuck in the junk-food cycle, it can be hard to get out. Eating junk will meet your calorie needs without meeting your micro requirements.

Because your body still needs micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), it may still send you hunger signals. If you continue to try and fulfil these hunger signals with junk, youíll just endlessly overeat. Packing your diet with nutrient-dense, whole, real-food options is the only way out of the trap.

3, Insatiable for carbs

When we sleep we produce a chemical called leptin. Leptin is involved in appetite regulation. If you donít sleep enough, you wonít produce enough leptin and your appetite will increase; especially for energy-rich carbs.

This is why, bizarrely, you can sometimes sleep your way to a healthier weight! Being well-rested puts you in a better position to manage your cravings.

If youíre unavoidably exhausted (new baby?), then try meeting those carb cravings with root vegetables, fresh fruit and beans/lentils, so that you donít send your blood sugar spiralling out of control.

4, Sugar, sugar, sugar

Sugar cravings are usually triggered by sugar lows. One sugary snack or drink will send your blood sugar rocketing, followed by a big old dip, which makes you feel irritable, tired and foggy. What do we all crave when we feel that way? Sugar! And so the spiral continues.

Try and beat this by starting the day with a protein-rich breakfast (veggie omelette and some berries would be perfect) and keeping yourself steady with healthy snacks (oatcakes, hummus, fresh fruit and nuts). Sugar leads to more sugar. Nip it in the bud!

5, Chocolate at Ďthatí time of the month

Good quality chocolate is rich in iron, which many women crave during their cycle. Try and get it from other sources, such as grass-fed beef or green vegetables, instead. I mean, a little chocolate is OK, but if youíre on your third bar of Dairy Milk, youíve gone a bit far!

Putting mayonnaise on your strawberries? Ketchup on your ice cream? Pregnant women do weird things (and Iím not entirely sure why), but non-pregnant people sometimes have strange cravings too.

Itís usually to do with nutritional cofactors, ie a micronutrient in one food helping you absorb a micronutrient in another.

For example, anaemic people often crave citrus when they eat green vegetables. Thatís because vitamin C (in citrus) improves the absorption of iron (in green veg).

Fascinating, isnít it? If you have something weird going on, come in to the clinic and letís check it out!

ē Catherine Burns is a fully qualified nutritional therapist trained by the Institute for Optimum Nutrition in the UK. For details:, 236-7511 or, Facebook, Natural Nutrition Bermuda

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Published Oct 5, 2018 at 8:00 am (Updated Oct 5, 2018 at 7:39 am)

How to curb your food cravings

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