What is Your Body REALLY Trying to Tell You?
Does anyone else with a day job miss staying home & watching daytime TV shows like Maury? My
favorite episodes were the ones with headlines like “Tina is terrified of cotton balls” or “Jack can’t stand
to even LOOK at pictures of pickles” – cut to some unlucky intern who agreed to cover themselves in
cotton balls or pickles descending the stairs & lumbering towards the poor phobic guest as they lost
their minds in terror….
But how about the episodes featuring guests with bizarre eating habits? Like the woman who would sit
on her couch & munch on the foam padding inside of it like popcorn? Or the woman who can’t stop
eating cat treats? These extreme cases of food cravings for inedible objects are known as “Pica”, but the
fact is that most people experience food cravings on a regular basis (albeit, more mundane ones). Like a
ticking time bomb, an ill-timed craving can bust even the most resolved dieter, but have you ever
considered that your body may be using these specific urges to tell you something?
There are many theories floating around about food cravings and why we experience them, but one
particularly interesting idea is that the desire for specific types of food may actually be a symptom of
vitamin or mineral deficiencies within our bodies body. “What?” you ask “You mean my body’s not just
conspiring to ensure I don’t fit into that itty bitty teeny weenie yellow polka dot bikini by Summer?” Not
necessarily. Think of all of the functions in our body that happen without any conscious thought; from
breathing to heartrate, heck, even though being pregnant is an intense 9 months, a woman’s body is
smart enough to figure the entire thing out and grow a whole new person inside of her without any
conscious effort from her whatsoever. So going by this theory, here are a few of the most common food
cravings & what your body may be trying to tell you…
Chocolate – A natural mood elevator & anxiety-relieving treat, a lot of people reach for chocolate as a
comfort food. What you may not know is that daydreaming at your desk about the dark or milky
decadence may be a sign that your tanks are running low on magnesium. Some foods that might help
feed this need without the excess sugar coma include, but are not limited to pumpkin seeds (I love them
in yogurt) & other raw nuts, wheat bran, artichoke, & legumes.
If it’s the fizzy stuff you’re fantasizing about, you might be lacking in the calcium department. Craving
carbonated drinks (soda, cola, pop, coke, or whatever they call it in your hometown) might be a sign
that your body wants more of the bone-building mineral we all know & love. Good sources to satisfy
this one are mustard & deep green veggies like turnip greens, broccoli, kale as well as cheese, sesame
seeds, & legumes. Hint: If you hate the taste of kale or broccoli, try hiding a serving or two in a fruity
protein smoothie with a few drops of stevia or chop them up finely & mix in spaghetti sauce. For more
ideas, just google “hiding veggies in kids food” (works like a charm with my boyfriend, the notorious
Ever thought of installing a salt-lick at your work station? Surprisingly, if you can’t get enough sodium
chloride (just a fancy word for salt), you might actually be experiencing potassium, iron, or calcium
deficiency. According to MSNBC, you may be shaking the salt like a maraca because it tricks your body
into temporarily thinking its calcium levels have risen, but don’t be fooled! According to the Mayo Clinic,
going over the recommended daily allowance of 2,300 mg of sodium per day (or 1,500 if you’re 51 or
older, or have high blood pressure, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease) can lead to heart disease,
stroke, kidney disease, & congestive heart failure. So before reaching for the salty snacks, try seaweed,
tomato, olives, celery, or lettuce instead.
Hello…is it (red) MEAT you’re looking for? If you find yourself asking, “Where’s the beef?” more often
than the old lady from the nostalgic Wendy’s commercials, it might actually be iron your body is craving.
This may be a common craving for infants & children, vegetarians, women – especially on their (sorry
guys) menstrual period, & frequent blood donors. All of the latter are at risk for anemia – a condition
resulting in poor oxygen distribution due to the lack of hemoglobin (a protein that cannot be produced
without iron) pumping through your veins. If you suspect you may be experiencing anemic symptoms,
it’s important to consult your doctor, but some iron rich foods you can try as well are pumpkin seeds,
sundried tomatoes, tofu, steamed oysters, pine nuts, sunflower seeds, & Jerusalem artichokes to name
No such thing as too much Tabasco? If you’re double-fisting habanero peppers & have a habit of
drowning everything you eat in hot sauce, your body may just be trying to regulate its temperature. Just
like an intense jog on a warm day, eating hot food may cause you to sweat, which is actually designed to
cool you off as it evaporates from your skin. Some people may also have more densely concentrated
papillae (the little knobby receptors on your tongue that that allow us to taste), making them more
sensitive to the sensations of certain flavors – spicy being one of them.
The above are just a few examples of what your body may be trying to tell you with those pesky
cravings. So the next time you’re halfway through your 30-day detox and simply can’t say no to the
birthday cake at work, please try to remember to be gentle on yourself. Your body is an incredibly
complex and wise system that’s only doing its best to keep you alive and thriving the best way it knows
how. Instead of cursing your cravings and “lack of willpower”, have a big glass of water, try a substitute
food, and if you’re still jonesing for that jelly donut…consider having a small bite. Living a healthy
lifestyle is about progress, not perfection.