I'm ravenous, and craving strange things, specifically peanut M&Ms. I don't think I've eaten an M&M since I was 16, but I can't stop thinking about them. I want salty AND sweet AND crunchy, all at the same time, and my usual wellness-counselor-approved fix of dried apricots and almonds isn't cutting it.
Today I ate early breakfast, late breakfast, a huge lunch, a snack, a yummy dinner, and a cup of tea, and now it's 10:00pm and I want peanut M&Ms. I consider walking to the 24-hour grocery store, but thankfully, it starts raining, and I'm forced to sit down and THINK about this instead of eating myself into a stupor.
You have to imagine me sitting on the floor, facing myself. Less-Conscious Me has her arms crossed-and is sulking. This is what the conversation sounds like:
Conscious Me: So, Lil. Why are you so hungry? Where do these cravings come from?
Less-Conscious Me: I'M STARVED.
C: You've had so much food today, though. What are you hungry for?
L: I want something delicious. I want to be blown away by how delicious my life is.
C: Everything you've eaten today was so delicious! What more can you want?
L: It's more than eating! I want my whole life to be delicious.
C: So the cravings for sweet, crunchy, spicy, salty….they aren't for food.
L: Right! I want my life to be sweet! And crunchy! And spicy! And salty!
C: Okay…okay. So what does that look like? How can you make your life more sweet and crunchy?
L: I WANT NOAH TO COME HOME NOW!!!
C: Aha!! So that's it. You are hungry for Noah.
L: Yeah! I want to have kisses and hand-holding, I want to have adventures, I want someone to cook for, to ask me the hard questions, and listen to my wild dreams!!!
C: So these cravings aren't for food, they are for qualities of life?
A little context: Noah is my traveling musician law-student boyfriend. His band is on tour for two weeks, and then law school starts up again, and I have an ugly feeling that our summer full of bike rides and picnic lunches might be over. This insatiable hunger isn't for food, and I don't have a nutrient deficiency, I just need a hug. Several hugs, actually, about about two weeks worth of hugs condensed into forty five minutes would be good.
This is great news! I've figured out the root cause of my cravings. Except, Noah is still out of town for another week. How do I deal with theses cravings in the meantime?
Call your brother and ask if you can make him dinner tomorrow night. He will say yes! Call your yoga partner, make plans to go to class tomorrow morning. Hug her when you see her! Call your neighbor with three kids under 8, and ask if she needs a babysitter. Wrestle with the six year-old, let the baby fall asleep in your arms, and sit with the oldest while he reads. Hold their hands. Make them yummy healthy snacks. Plan bike rides and picnics with your friends, watch old western movies, work in your garden, get up early and go running up the canyon, see a baby deer and get stung by a bee. That's a crunchy, spicy, sweet life!
The night Noah is coming home, notice how many things you didn't get a chance to do while he was gone. Notice that law school is not the end of the world, it's just a change in lifestyle. Be willing to continue the conversation with yourself, and listen to your own needs. Even when your life is full of love, there will still be cravings that confuse you. Be courageous, dig into them, discover what you are hungry for.
(P.S. I am a Wellness Counselor in Boulder, Colorado. I teach women how to think and eat for optimal physical and emotional health. Learn more at IdealNourishment.com and read more blog entries here.)