3 Reasons Why You Should Honor Your Cravings
Alex Raymond, RD, LD
We live in a diet culture world--constantly bombarded with messages about restricting foods, good/bad foods, weight loss, and changing our bodies. These messages promise health and happiness. It can be so easy to get wrapped up in these ideas, especially since we’ve been taught this from very early on. The messaging is pervasive, which makes it all the more important to pay close attention and listen with a critical ear.
This article was inspired by a new product, appetite suppressant lollipops. As a non-diet dietitian, you might be able to guess, I’m not a supporter of this invention. I believe it’s totally ridiculous that we should be trying to suppress our hunger and our cravings. And I’d like to take this article to explain why.
1. Food is essential for human life.
I think most of us would agree our bodies need food to survive. Hunger is a normal part of the human experience. Our body sends us the hunger signal as a way to say, “hello, we need some fuel here!” Our organs and muscles use the energy from food to function properly.
You may have heard this metaphor before… I often compare human bodies and our need for fuel similar to the way cars need gasoline in order to drive. Think about when you’re driving. As you see the dial move closer to the E for “empty,” you tell yourself, “oh it’s time to fill up my tank.” Or if you’re anything like me, you sometimes accidentally wait until the fuel tank light is on. You can probably then relate to the feeling of urgency of getting to a gas station ASAP! Maybe you think, next time, I won’t wait that long to fill up the tank. So, let’s use this metaphor to relate it to our hunger/fullness signals. When we feel ourselves starting to get that twinge of hunger, it’s important we honor it. It’s important to fill up your tank because your body is needing that fuel in order to do its basic functions (heart beating, brain thinking, lungs breathing...etc.).
And think about it, we wouldn’t imagine trying to suppress the signals that tell us when to use the bathroom. We just automatically listen to it. Try to remind yourself that when you feel hunger, it means that your body needs more fuel to get through the day. It means that your body is alive and wants to treat you right.
2. Cravings and a message for our bodies
How did cravings become such a terrible thing? We can thank diet culture for that one. For some reason, our body wanting delicious foods, whether that be ice cream or fried foods or veggies or a burger, has been twisted into something that is scary. We get bombarded with messages all the time telling us we shouldn’t desire certain foods. Or that we need to do whatever possible to get rid of the cravings.
Firstly, when our body is craving a certain food, and you’ve been mostly fueling yourself properly (ie. no restrictions from your diet unless medically necessary), it means that we want said food. If you’re craving french fries, chances are, you just want french fries. If you’re craving donuts, chances are, you should eat the donuts because you actually want them. And that’s totally okay. It’s crucial to give yourself permission to eat any and all foods.
I will mention one exception. Part of intuitive and mindful eating is to pay attention to our body’s signals and what they may be telling us--usually the answer is simple. For example, if we find ourselves feeling tired or sluggish that could mean a) that we are not getting enough sleep or b) maybe we are spreading ourselves too thin. You could be getting the same signals from your body, but may need to do a little digging to figure out which one it is. So, sometimes, when we crave certain foods, it may mean we’ve been underfueling. You may want to look back at a few days worth of eating and reflect if the food was enough. It’s totally possible that your cravings may be a signal to add a bit more fuel throughout the day. My recommendation? Honor the craving and ask yourself where meals and/or snacks may not be enough.
3. Honoring cravings, allows us to break free from food rules and diet culture
Ultimately, honoring your body’s wants and desires, whether that’s food, sleep, movement or relaxation, is essential for taking care of yourself. Think about a baby. The baby will cry when it needs something because she can’t do it herself. If that baby doesn’t get her needs met, chances are, she’s going to cry harder until she is fed, the wet diaper gets changed or she is able to go to sleep. As we age, we still have all the same needs as a baby, but we become self-sufficient and are generally able to satisfy (most) needs without help from others.
That we should be above the need to fuel ourselves or rest when we are injured. So, I believe, that every time you honor your body’s food cravings you are fighting back against, quite frankly, a disordered way of living. You’ll find that food will have less and less power over you. And chances are, over time, you’ll find peace with food and your body. It will take some time since we are all bombarded with negative food messages. I challenge you, for this next week, to give yourself permission to eat and enjoy what you are craving. And be glad you’re allowing yourself to respect and nourish your body.
Alexandra Raymond, RD, LD, REBEL RD, is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who is passionate about empowering her clients to rebuild a positive relationship with food. She specializes in anorexia, orthorexia, disordered eating in athletes and enjoys working with families. Alex is truly passionate about working with her clients to support them along their recovery journey. She enjoys speaking at events for education and awareness of topics like the HAES principles and body positivity. She also works with RD2Be's and other RD's to share her knowledge about these topics.