8 Causes of Cravings by Kiran

This post is by blog team member, Kiran. To learn more about Kiran, check out our team page or her blog!


So guess what? I’m officially a Certified Holistic Health Coach as of mid-March. Last year I signed up for the Institute of Integrative Nutrition (IIN), which has been around since 1992. You may remember us mentioning them before (Amy on our team also went through the program), but I took the year-long online class for a few reasons: the first is that I’m working on a book (or maybe an e-book – stay tuned) and I wanted to have some type of credentials for writing it. The other is, like many others (possibly you!), the subject is interesting to me and I wanted to further my knowledge.

What I liked about the program was that not only could I do it at my own pace, but along with going through a number of dietary theories, it also showed how all sorts of aspects of people’s lives are contributing to food choices. I particularly liked the following information I learned that dissected cravings – and hello, is there anyone out there who doesn’t have them, or who hasn’t had them in the past? If you struggle with cravings, I’d love to know if it can be attributed to one of the following 8 causes…
8 Causes of Cravings on 100 Days of Real Food

8 Causes of Cravings

  1. Lack of primary food.
    Primary “food” – which is not really food and instead things in life that “feed” and nourish you in other ways – consists of relationships, career, and spiritual satisfaction. This was by far the most interesting theory that we talked about, primarily because these can influence our food (which is considered secondary, btw) choices. So when these aspects are off, we find ourselves seeking satisfaction from food. In all honesty, I’ve seen this firsthand with my eldest daughter, who is now 13. Her social life was, well, just okay for a year or so … but once she found her “tribe,” as they say, she’s lost interest in food. Not fully – but she views it differently. And of course I’ve never mentioned this to her, it’s just something that I’ve observed.
  2. Water.
    This one is probably more obvious, and I’ve seen this firsthand with my kids. People often mistake thirst for hunger, and are satisfied after simply rehydrating. Lack of water can send the message that you’re thirsty and on the verge of dehydration. Dehydration can manifest as hunger, so the first thing to do when you get a craving is drink a full glass of water.
  3. Yin-yang imbalance.
    Another new and interesting concept to me: Certain foods are more yin (expansive) while other foods are more yang (contractive). Eating foods that are either extremely yin or extremely yang causes cravings, because your body naturally tries to maintain balance. For example, eating a diet rich in sugar (yin) may cause a craving for meat (yang). Eating too many raw foods (yin) may cause cravings for heavily-cooked foods and vice versa.
  4. Inside-out.
    This is a very interesting concept to me. Often times, cravings come from foods we’ve recently eaten, foods eaten by our ancestors, or foods from our childhood. Do you ever find yourself craving foods from your childhood? Or foods from your ancestral roots? Try eating a “healthified” version of those comfort foods from your younger years to see if that does the trick. Or if you are craving foods that you ate in past days, a tongue cleaner can be helpful.
  5. Seasonal.
    The body often craves foods in accordance with the season. Have you noticed that you are craving light foods, such as citrus or salads in the spring? Or cooling foods in the summer? Give in to these cravings! During the colder months, or in colder climates, you may crave heat-producing foods like meat, oil or fat. Oh, and they can also influence holiday cravings. So there is a reason that we want those holiday sweets and such in December! You can totally blame it on that;). Or try moderation.
  6. Lack of nutrients.
    You’ve likely heard this one before; if the body has inadequate nutrients, it’ll produce odd cravings. For example, inadequate mineral levels trigger salt cravings, and overall inadequate nutrition can lead to cravings of caffeine as an energy source. I know that personally I tend to get anemic (ALL THE TIME – note frustration) and I will crave caffeine when I’m getting low.
  7. Hormonal.
    No shocker here. Menstruation, pregnancy and menopause can bring on the cravings.
  8. De-evolution.
    This was a very interesting one for me. When things are going extremely well in your life, sometimes self-sabotage happens, they explain. We crave foods that throw us off, thus creating more cravings to balance ourselves. This often happens from low blood sugar and may result in strong mood swings. Has this happened to you? This is one to pay attention to. I do have to agree that sometime it seems like all is great and all of a sudden – BOOM – things are off. And then there are cravings.

So the next time you feel a craving coming on, stop for a moment and think. What is it that your body may actually be wanting? Is it simply a tall glass of water? More balanced meals? Or perhaps some time with someone else? Instead of heading to the fridge, consider heading outside for some fresh air, something that certainly never hurts. Take the dog with you, or a friend or loved one.

And also remember, you can’t eat something if it’s not around so simply don’t bring all your highly processed favorites into the house in the first place. You’ll thank yourself later, especially when those cravings do hit hard.
So those are the reasons I learned we often have cravings. Can you attribute any of your recent cravings to one of the above? I’d love to hear in the comments below. Oh, and if you are interested in finding out more about the Institute of Integrative Nutrition, you can visit this link for a sample class. They have promised a significant discount if you mention this post/100 Days of Real Food, and their next class begins soon!

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16 thoughts on “8 Causes of Cravings by Kiran”

  1. So true! We are not eating real food and drinking enough water! We don’t follow seasons as well so that means we don’t eat according to the seasons.

  2. The Yin/Yang idea, that’s a new one to me and fits very well. Someone else already mentioned it, and I’ve found I crave pickles or fermented foods after too much sweet. Always wondered about that.

    Also congrats on the certification!

  3. #1 really hit home. On some level I knew that was the case but seeing it in writing made it very real. If only I could find a way to meet this primary needs.

  4. Kelli Lundquist

    My cravings totally come from #1, lack of primary food. It’s so great to see this put into writing – it makes me feel and really know that I am not alone in the habit of “eating my feelings.” Thanks for this fantastic article, Kiran!

    1. Kiran Dodeja Smith

      You aren’t alone in the slightest! I feel that our lives are constantly changing and it’s always a balancing act to get what we need. It’s great that you can recognize this, too! I hope that you are able to work on getting the Primary Foods that you feel that you are lacking:).

    1. There are health conditions that predispose people to anemia, and diet alone often can’t remedy that. Many women in my family suffer this condition – they could eat that cast iron skillet and still be anemic.

    2. Oh how I wish your comment were true! I cook with cast iron almost everyday and eat an iron rich diet, yet I still have take an iron supplement.

    3. I cook almost every meal in cast iron and have been anemic for years. My theory on that is that people process iron differently, so, as with some many other things in life, what works for one may not work for all.

  5. I get the yin and yang whenever I eat something for dessert except for tart fruity desserts (lemon meringue, peach pie etc) … Love having a treat but always seem to seek out pickles, kimchi, veggies and dip or salty lean meat after indulging!
    I think most of us women especially as we get older and more aware of our cyclical change recognize the few days of crazy cravings! Agree to not keeping junk in the house, I will suggest tho, especially if you know it is not thirst and it is hormonal…eat in moderation what you crave, eating around it doesn’t solve it and increases what you eat at least for me because I end up eating the good stuff and still *needing* that craving satiated!

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