We’ve all heard about ways to combat food cravings: get busy to distract yourself, go for a walk, write it in a food journal, remove all tempting food from your fridge/cupboard, just will your way through it. It is all valid advice but may not address the root cause – the actual reason for your food cravings. To prevent cravings or at least significantly minimize them, Ayurveda has some interesting advice. And trust me it works!
I don’t believe in putting restrictions on what and when I should be eating. I like my sweets and enjoy them whenever I want and still maintain my healthy weight. This is not because of my genes or my small frame, unfortunately, most females in my family struggle with weight issues. Ayurveda and yoga have made me a lot more attuned to my body and reduced the number of cravings that I experience and therefore would have to fight. Following these 5 Ayurvedic rules will make it happen for you, too! Start practicing them today and watch your attitude towards food and your body change!
- Flavor Explosion !In Ayurveda, foods are classified into six tastes (rasas)–sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent and astringent. Ayurvedic healers recommend that you include all six at each main meal. Each has a balancing ability, and including some of each provides complete nutrition, minimizes cravings, and balances the appetite and digestion. The general American diet tends to have too much of the sweet, sour and salty tastes, and not enough of the bitter, pungent and astringent tastes. To get the full compliment, add dark greens for bitter taste, radishes or daikon for pungent, and beans, lentils, cabbage for an astringent kick. An easy way to include all 6 tastes at every meal is to have a chutney. Chutneys add flavor to any meal and help stimulate digestion. They will make any meal feel more complete. Here is a simple recipe for an Apple Chutney . Kalustyan’s Indian specialty store at 123 Lexington Ave has a huge selection of fruit premade chutneys.
- Forget About Socially Imposed Norms! Doctors, nutritionists, trainers, celebrities continuously give advice (often contradictory) on what, how much, when to eat, how to get the protein or carbs and fats, whether to fast or not, etc. Many nutritionists frown upon skipping meals and urge their clients to eat before experiencing a strong hunger so they don’t overeat later. It is good to know general rules but it is also important to listen to your own body because everyone’s body is different and has different needs! The first thing to do is pay attention. Learn about yourself. Tomorrow when you’re on your lunch break, ask yourself if you’re truly hungry. We usually eat when our day watch tells us to, not when our bodies tell us to. If you’re not hungry, wait until you are. If your schedule doesn’t permit an alternate time to eat at work, eat lightly or wait until dinner. The food tastes so much better when you are truly hungry! Listening to your body also applies when you choose what to eat. Don’t force down a piece of chicken or tofu when you would much rather have a seaweed salad just because you need protein. When your body needs protein, it will let you know.
- Make Each Meal an Experience. I can’t stress this one enough! First of all, sit when you are eating (and no, eating in a car driving doesn’t count!). Use utensils and a plate and maybe even a cloth napkin. Slow down and enjoy each bite you take. Your food won’t evaporate in 5 minutes and you are probably not being timed, so don’t make it a competition with yourself. Try to be mindful of the food’s taste, texture, color, and smell. Did you ever notice how pretty the strawberries are or the delicious way freshly grilled vegetables smell? Chew the food before you swallow it. Besides helping digestion, chewing food will significantly reduce the amount of food that you need to get full and will make you enjoy it more. The slower you eat and the more you enjoy what you eat the less likely you will be to experience food cravings later. If you ever caught yourself sitting in front of a TV and polishing off an entire plate of food without even tasting it, you know that it is time to start practicing mindful eating!
- The Power of Foreseeing. Fast-paced and stressful environment can easily lead to Vata and Pitta imbalances. When nervous and overwhelmed (Vata imbalance) your body will try to naturally balance out and you are likely to crave sweet, sour, and salty tastes because they calm Vata imbalances. Aggravated Pitta will manifest itself in the feelings of anger, crankiness, and irritability. You might crave sweet cold treats such as ice cream or iced sweet drinks (Starbucks fix?) or bitter and astringent foods that would cool and calm a Pitta imbalance. Thinking ahead about the upcoming day, consider potential high stress situations. Do you have a board meeting, an important deadline, a long flight, or back to back meetings all day, will there be traffic on the way to work? Being mentally prepared to experience slight fluctuations of your emotions, energy levels, or mood will allow you to be more mindful of your needs. If you expect Vata or Pitta aggravation throughout the day, bring along an easy fix. Think of it as a medicine. Every time I have to fly somewhere I bring sweet apples, apricots with almonds and a few pouches of herbal tea. Even though flight attendants give me weird looks when I ask for hot water instead of a canned soda with ice, I never feel out of balance even after a 10 hour flight.
- Fall in Love or Make a Friend! Strong positive emotions ‘feed’ you in a way no ice cream can! Many people report a loss of appetite during the initial stages of a romantic relationship because the emotional support and physical comfort they receive from a partner “feeds” them. Vasant Lad, an Ayurvedic physician is fond of saying, “Food is food for the body, and love is food for the soul.” What better time to fall in love than Spring?! Don’t equate falling in love with a search for your lifetime partner, just enjoy everyday interactions. Look for beautiful things that surround you on a daily basis: I can’t help myself but to fall in love with new spring flowers, music, and my puppy curled up near me. Another great way to increase positive emotions and make new friends is to smile. Smile to a barista at the coffee shop for making you coffee, to a subway stranger in a cute top, and to a fellow yoga student. Oh, and don’t forget to smile to yourself in the mirror! And watch the cravings flying away on the wings of your elevated mood!