Last week, we experienced the first snowfall of the season here in Boston, making it loud and clear that winter is on its way. It’s hard to believe that we’re already well into November, with the holiday season just around the corner.
While the holidays bring a great amount of joy, they also come with an extra dose of stress, temptation and guilt. From family gatherings to work cocktail outings, it’s easy to pack on those extra calories (and pounds) during this time of year. It’s no doubt that sometimes our cravings get the best of us, making us go for treats (i.e. those double fudge brownies) we’d normally pass on.
But instead of letting your cravings take control over you, this year you’re going to learn to take ownership of your cravings. The first step? Understanding and accepting the root cause behind those crazy cravings in the first place.
At the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, we’re trained to dig deep in order to understand what’s really going on inside our bodies, instead of merely treating the symptoms. So instead of feeling guilty over eating one extra serving of stuffing (or stuffing your face with grandma’s homemade chocolate chip cookies) ask yourself “Why am I doing this?”…”What’s the reason I’m craving what I’m craving?”
Are you making up for the gaps in other areas of your life? Often times, our cravings have nothing to do with food at all, but are really about something else going on. Are you unhappy in your relationship? Do you hate your job? Are you stressed out from the burden that comes with parenthood? Do you make enough time for yourself? Take a look at these other areas (career, relationship, exercise, spirituality) and try to focus on improvement. Often times, we reach for food to fill the void but that is not the answer.
How much water are you consuming? Many people are not drinking enough water, which can send confusing signals to our body. When we’re on the verge of dehydration, often times this tricks our body into thinking we’re hungry. Next time you’re craving sweets late-night or can’t control your eating at a holiday party, drink a full glass of water first and wait at least a half an hour to re-access if you’re really hungry or not.
Are you getting the right amount of nutrients? When the body is lacking essential nutrients, it will produce strange cravings. For example, if you’re not consuming enough minerals, you’ll crave salty food, often in unhealthy forms like potato chips or fried food. If you’re nutritionally deficient, you may crave caffeine or soda for a quick energy boost. Examine your diet to see if there are areas you can improve on. If you’re not absorbing your nutrients well, try adding in sea salt or sea vegetables, which both improve nutrient absorption.
Are your hormones going crazy? This one’s for the ladies in particular! Whether you’re pregnant or menstruating, women often experience ups and downs with their hormones. These “hormonal swings” can cause cravings for odd foods like pickles, chocolate, or fried food. Be sure you’re managing your stress properly and finding time to relax through yoga, herbal tea (I love Yogi’s Calming) and even meditation. Also, be sure you’re getting enough magnesium which helps control hormones, in the form of nuts, seeds or a natural supplement.
Do you always gain weight around the holiday season? If you’re one to always put on those extra “winter pounds,” the season could be to blame. Often times, we crave food that brings us joy, comfort or reminds us of our childhood, all of which the holidays tend to do. To mange these types of cravings, try creating healthier versions of your favorites. For example, if you love pumpkin pie, try making your own variation with real pumpkin or an all natural puree like these Gluten Free Pumpkin Muffins or Vegan Pumpkin Pudding.
If you’re heading to a work party where you know they’ll be only chips, dips, and fried food, make it a point to prepare something healthy that you’ll feel good about eating. Also, don’t deprive yourself of your favorite treats. If you look forward to mom’s famous stuffing every year, have it, but stop yourself at just one serving. When you deprive yourself from foods you really want, you’ll end up eating even more or bingeing on it later on, which leads to guilt and a whole boatload of other problems. Instead, have a little bit and move on with your life.
Are you having fun? When all said is said is done, the holidays are supposed to be an exciting time filled with love! Make sure you’re having fun with it, and give yourself a break every once in a while to simply enjoy and just be.
What types of food do you crave around the holidays? How do you manage your cravings? What areas could you work on this season?