The origin of a craving

To diffuse them, you must deconstruct them. Read Tier 4 coach Bethany Snodgrass's surprising insight.

A craving can crop up seemingly out of nowhere. An overwhelming urge for ice cream, potato chips or Shepherd’s pie. You may have assumed that there’s nothing more to it than wanting something sweet, salty, or cozy, but there are often physical and psychological reasons as to why you crave what you crave.

“Cravings are signals our bodies send us but there’s often a message behind them. By looking at the message, you can create awareness around what may be missing—in your diet or even in your life,” says Tier 4 Coach and nutrition pro Bethany Snodgrass. “For instance, emotional eating often results from a lack of nourishment in other areas of our lives—in our work, relationships, spirituality, or physical movement. It can lead to reaching for food in order to fill a void.”

While your abs can probably withstand occasional indulgences, too-frequent food urges will impact your progress in the gym. Snodgrass’s recommend: Deconstruct the craving and you may be able to diffuse it. Ask what does my body want and why?

To do that it first helps to gain some insight into how your body may be speaking to you and whether you could be suffering from a dietary deficiency or merely a case of nostalgia. Here, in her own words, Snodgrass breaks it down into a cravings cheat-sheet.

(1) Chocolate
The Origin:
If you’re regularly craving a specific sweet like chocolate, you may have a magnesium deficiency since chocolate is high in that mineral.
The Solution: Try adding magnesium-rich leafy greens, nuts, and avocado to your diet. Cravings for sweets are often tied to wanting love and the result of an overall environment that isn’t nourishing; you can also to quench the feeling by doing something other than eating like spending time with a friend.

(2) Salty foods
The Origin:
Salt cravings are a tip-off that you’re low in overall mineral levels.
The Solution: Try snacking on seaweed chips or consider a multi-mineral supplement. Salty, crunchy foods also create heat in the body so if you work in a cold environment and regularly have these cravings, you may simply need to bundle up more or sip on hot lemon water or tea.

(3) Caffeine
The Origin:
If you eat a highly processed diet, you’ll tend to crave more caffeinated beverages. Junk food can also leave you constantly hungry because there’s no nutritional value in what you’re eating. Your body is craving caffeine to provide it with the energy it needs.
The Solution: Add colorful whole foods into your diet instead for healthy energy.

(4) Childhood foods
The Origin:
It could be your mom’s meatloaf. For me, it’s my grandmother's pierogies. She played Jamaican music as she made them and hearing it can trigger a craving in me.
The Solution: So ask yourself, is it the food or the feeling I had with family that I’m craving? If it’s the latter, calling them may quench it.

(5) Late-in-the-day munchies
The Origin:
A common craving influenced by a hormonal imbalance is when your cortisol levels are elevated. You’ll crave foods late in the day or evening because you’re intuitively trying to relieve stress.
The Solution: See if a stress-relieving activity like a yoga class or an Epsom salt bath diffuses it.

(6) Carb-laden foods
The Origin:
This can mean that your gut flora is imbalanced. The majority of your serotonin is produced in your gut so you may instinctively be reaching for carbs that aid in the production of it. The problem is that this negatively impacts your flora further, setting you up for a vicious cycle.
The Solution: Eating Greek yogurt, kefir, kimchi or supplementing with a probiotic can help.