It’s 10 am, you’re at work, and you’re bored. The bagel you had for breakfast earlier wasn’t that satisfying, and the woman in the bucket next to you has a bowl of Hershey’s kisses on her desk. You walk through the chocolates a few times, and finally go ahead and grab some. At lunchtime, she buys a deli sandwich that comes with a bag of chips and a brownie, and eats her lunch while answering emails. A few hours later you start to fall asleep at your desk. You have a sweet tooth and a trip to the vending machine for a Snickers bar helps you stay awake and finish your day. By the time you hit the evening rush hour and head home, you’re feeling “road rage” and want something to eat NOW. So you pour yourself a bowl of cereal and head to the couch to watch your favorite TV show.
If you can relate to this scenario, you are not alone. Most Americans live their lives this way, jumping from craving to craving, feeling completely out of control with what they eat. However, there is an easy way to control your cravings. There is a way of eating where you are in charge of choosing your food, instead of feeling that the food chooses you!
People often feel bad about their cravings. They see them as a sign of weakness, or they think their bodies are “out of control.” Why else would you give in to a bag of chocolate chip cookies, when you could resist them all week?
Actually, your body is very smart. He always knows exactly what to do. For example, your heart never misses a beat. Your lungs expand and contract as needed. When you’re hot, you sweat, and when you’re cold, you shiver. Your body knows what it needs to do and when to do it.
Likewise, if your body craves a certain food, there’s probably a reason for it! Your desire is a sign of an underlying imbalance. It is a solution, not a problem. It’s your body’s way of telling you that it needs something. Your job, then, is to be a “food detective” of sorts: figure out what the craving is really about.
There are many reasons why your body might need something and send you a craving. One perspective on food cravings uses the concepts of “yin” and “yang.” Yin and yang simply refer to “complementary but opposing forces.” We see examples of yin and yang all the time in our daily lives: up and down, inside and outside, black and white, male and female, hot and cold, night and day. Things in life that are opposite but complement each other.
Yin and yang can also be applied to food. In this app, “yin” refers to foods that create short-term feelings of lightness, happiness, and contentment. Yin foods cause a rise in the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain, leading to feelings of well-being, followed by a sharp decline and feelings of weakness and emptiness. The predominant component of yin foods is white sugar. Other yin foods include white flour, white rice, alcohol, juice, caffeine, fats, and oils.
At the other end of the spectrum are yang foods. Yang foods create short-term feelings of strength and increase physical and mental power. They include salt and protein-rich animal foods, such as red meat, eggs, and cheese. Yang foods cause a rise in the neurotransmitter dopamine, causing one to feel very alert and aggressive, followed by feelings of sluggishness and bloating.
Your body is always trying to maintain balance. If you eat a lot of yin, you will look for yang. If you eat a lot of yang, you will look for yin. For example, after eating a meal rich in extreme yang foods, such as steak, baked potatoes with sour cream, and vegetables with butter, you may feel heavy and blocked. You can find something to help you feel light and unblocked, like a sweet dessert and coffee.
So the key to curbing food cravings is to eat foods that are neither extremely yin nor extremely yang. Imagine that there is a food continuum between extreme yin and extreme yang foods. Foods that fall in the middle of the yin-yang continuum include vegetables, grains, nuts, and legumes. Fruit is also near the middle, although slightly yin, while fish and poultry are slightly yang.
By the way, the concepts of yin and yang can be used to describe your day or your mood. If someone is being very yin, he is relaxing, daydreaming and napping. An example of being yang is when someone gets angry at the person they just passed in traffic. Yin and yang can explain why after a day of watching TV (yin), you might not feel like speaking in front of a group (yang), and why at the end of a long, hard day at work (yang ), you may be craving a drink (yin)!
If you experience cravings throughout the day, consider what you’re eating and where those foods fall on the yin-yang continuum. The Standard American Diet (SAD) is dominated by extreme yin and extreme yang foods, such as sugar, white flour, salt, and red meat. We learn to eat this way at a young age and it becomes commonplace. Eating these types of foods may be causing you to crave more food later on, without you realizing it! Also consider what experiences you have during the day and how those experiences may make you feel yin or yang, leading you to crave certain foods. By paying attention carefully and eating foods mostly in the middle of the yin-yang continuum, you CAN control your cravings once and for all!