Many people view cravings as weaknesses, when in reality they are important messages meant to help you maintain balance. It all comes down to trusting your body, instead of thinking of your cravings as an enemy to be ignored or defeated. – Joshua Rosenthal, Integrative Nutrition: A Whole-Life Approach to Health and Happiness
We will always want to have that piece of cake on our birthday or maybe a glass of champagne on New Year’s Eve. Our culture is full of occasions to celebrate. And in most of the world’s religions, there is a time to feast and a time to fast — that’s an integral part of our human history. It’s also a link to our ancestral past. Cravings can be complex, and we need to learn to navigate them, especially as they relate to our health issues.
I was reflecting on this as I was selecting the photographs to include in my collage: foods that resonate with my Northern Italian and Sicilian heritage, which I often crave. I grew up in the same household as my maternal grandmother, a seamstress by profession. She traveled by bus to the garment district in New York City, and she often returned home to cook dinner for the family. Yes, we ate pasta and freshly made tomato sauce on Sunday, but we also ate the vegetables from her garden – zucchini, bell peppers, string beans, lettuce, and other greens that she called verdure.
While I limited many foods with simple carbohydrates as I proceeded with my weight transformation, I still crave these ancestral foods. Once in a great while, I make my own fresh pasta strips using Einkorn flour, filled with homemade goat’s milk ricotta and spinach, and topped with butter and sage sauce. I combine leftover leg of lamb with sauteed onions and peas, a quick dish Nana often made. I put together a salad of arugula, pears, walnuts, and prosciutto, dressed with balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil. And perhaps the most satisfying of them all – I love cooking Nana’s stuffed artichokes.
There is something deeply satisfying about eating an artichoke: slowly peeling off and scraping each succulent leaf, and cutting away the choke to finally reach the heart. It’s symbolic of the love that nurtured me as a child, and though the act of preparing and savoring this comfort food I nurture myself.
It is love that nourishes us. And perhaps in understanding that connection between love and nourishment, that deep comfort that we feel from ancestral food, we can come to terms with the roots of our cravings and find a greater satisfaction.
Take a look at the attached worksheet, “Navigate Cravings with Mindfulness.” In exploring the origin of your cravings, you may want to ask yourself the following suggested questions:
- Is this craving occurring alongside a particular emotion or physical feeling?
- Is this craving for a highly palatable food?
- Is this craving tied to a habit?
- Is this craving guiding me toward a food that would support my health or well-being?
As we acknowledge and confront our cravings, we become empowered to seek out the best choices for where we are right now on our health journey.
♥ Susan L. Ward
Integrative Nutrition Health Coach