We ask Paola Atlason, certified Holistic Health and Nutrition Coach, all our questions about cravings during quarantine and anchoring wellness routines in isolation. Here’s what she told us about deciphering the signals our bodies are sending:
What are cravings? What is our body telling us?
Cravings are your body’s way of telling you that it needs something. That ‘something’ doesn't necessarily mean food. Your body could be sounding its need for sleep, mindfulness, hydration. The problem is that we read these signals through food.
If you’re tired, your body asks for caffeine or sugar, but what it really needs is a jolt of energy. The solution may actually be that you pause, meditate or take a nap, because your body is tired. Or that you take a step back and address your sleep hygiene and nighttime routine.
Cravings have nothing to do with food. When you are hungry, you feed your body accordingly. But when it comes to cravings, it's important to pause and decipher what your body is trying to tell you.
What other signals from our body do we often confuse with cries for food?
When people crave salty, unhealthy foods – like chips or pretzels – your body may be dehydrated and asking for minerals (salt being one). Rather than opening the bag of chips, take a breath and assess if you’ve been drinking water. Need an extra boost? Add electrolytes or some sea salt to your water and make sure you are eating enough leafy green vegetables throughout the day.
Around our periods, women often crave chocolate. That usually means we need more of the magnesium, another mineral. When we crave ice cream and other creamy foods during this time of the month, it could mean our estrogen levels are off – and there are healthier food solutions than the desserts that come to mind. Eating broccoli and cruciferous vegetables will balance your estrogen levels and reproductive hormones.
One of the biggest challenges for many in this new reality has been creating structure around eating and mealtimes. Any advice?
Without the ‘anchors’ of an office job and a commute, we have more freedom to do things when we want, but the lack of structure is not great for many people. On the other hand, creating a rigid schedule during such an ever-shifting situation is dangerous, because if anything throws you off, you’re off kilter again.
I advise creating a loose structure with what I call ‘anchors.’ In the morning, do one thing that reminds you or your intention for the day; something that helps you stay in your wellness lane for the rest of the day. For me, meditation is really helpful. If I start with that, the rest of my day falls into place. Make a healthy breakfast, meditation, or taking your supplements the thing that anchors the beginning of your day.
Create a window to eat lunch and a window to eat dinner, so you don’t find yourself eating at 11:00 at night. Next, set a ‘window’ for when you’re going to move, even if it’s not perfect. For me, my exercise happens while I’m homeschooling my kids. They’re sitting at the table. I’m next to them on the ground, exercising. It’s not ideal, because my exercise used to be my ‘me’ time, but now it’s our ‘we’ time. This loose, anchored structure is really helpful right now.
Stress makes many of us reach for unhealthy foods. Any tips for coping with anxiety and curbing those impulses?
First, treat yourself with a lot of kindness and compassion. Those cravings are you trying to soothe yourself. An easy way, a very primal way of soothing yourself is putting something in your mouth. And that sounds kind of weird, but what do babies do? They put their fingers or toes in their mouth when they're hungry. They become the hunger.
If you're going through a very stressful time or feeling extra anxious right now, don’t beat yourself up – but also work to create separation between you and that calling. You are not the hunger.
Sometimes, you should look to a healthier choice. If you do choose to participate in the craving, however, do it with joy. The other day, I was having a week and started craving all this Dominican food; a very special kind of celebration food. I’m Dominican and I realized that I missed my family. I need the flavors to feel that homey feeling. I never eat rice, but I made those foods exactly like my grandma would make them, ate them all once, and was happy. It tasted like home. That craving was bringing me home.
What are some other ways we can bring joy into our wellness routines right now?
It’s so important to move your body, in whatever way you choose. Jump around, dance, stretch, find a workout you love, get outside. Moving kicks up positive energy in your body and gets your endorphins flowing.
Also, you have time now to make beautiful meals for yourself. Nobody’s rushing you. And it doesn’t have to be expensive. You can make really fancy, simple meals for an affordable price. Time is a luxury right now.
If we are making progress during this pause, how can we maintain these new wellness routines as we eventually shift back into busier lifestyles?
We are ever changing. Things are always shifting and moving. We tend to hold on to a solution that worked for us during a specific period, and pile stuff on top of that. Now that old routines have been broken and your lifestyle has changed, don't look at it as going "back" to where you were before, because that's gone. You moved away from those things for a reason, right?
This time is just an exaggerated version of the constant change we are always experiencing. You should focus on being resilient and malleable and flexible enough to cruise through whatever life throws at you. Instead of striving for a perfect schedule, work towards an open, strong mind that says, "Today is not panning out how I wanted. How can I anchor myself throughout my day to remind me of what my purpose is and what my intentions are today?”
Paola Atlason is a proud mama of two and an advocate for Empowering Women with Wellness. A Certified Holistic Health and Nutrition Coach, Paola has spent well over a decade researching and developing innovative Wellness techniques and Science based Nutrition principles. She creates personalized self-care programs that help her clients thrive and shares weekly insights on her talk show The Live Journal Podcast. Support Paola’s work @paola.atlason and paolaatlason.live.
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