There are many opinions about intuitive eating. When my clients ask me whether listening to your body's cravings is healthy or not, I often reply with a mixed answer. It depends on what the state of your health is, and in most cases, this means that it is not the healthiest unless you can interpret what your cravings mean. However, the current intuitive eating fad suggests that.
"Cravings are your body's way of telling you that you have a lack or that you need a particular kind of food."
Yes, this is the case when your body is balanced! (prakruti) but unfortunately not when you are experiencing any imbalances (vikruti). When imbalanced, your cravings are cravings of your imbalance; thus, when listening to those, you will be feeding the dis-ease growing inside of you.
Like attracts like and the opposite brings balance.
It is not as difficult as it might sound. To explain it simply, I will use the example of spicy food.
Someone with a natural tendency toward warmth, who easily sweats, experiences inflammation, acid reflux, and has a hot temper might love to eat spicy food. But since this person already has a lot of heat in her body by eating more heat (spicy food), it will increase her imbalance even though her body might be telling her to eat this food. In Ayurveda, we speak of like attracts like, and the opposite brings balance. Therefore when experiencing this craving during an imbalance, the right thing to do would be to eat cooling foods when craving spicy foods. Otherwise, you will further imbalance your body.
Another example could be craving a bag of chips. Some people interpret this as a lack of salt. Yes, this could be the case, but if you are craving salt, your body will only be craving a minimal amount. Therefore healing this craving by adding a little bit of seaweed to your meal should do the trick. Otherwise, it's your imbalance speaking to you.
What to do when experiencing cravings
Listen to the craving and try to interpret what it is telling you.
Are you currently experiencing an imbalance or dis-ease?
Your symptoms will tell you exactly which dosha is out of balance by knowing that you can interpret whether this imbalance causes this craving or not.
Will this food make your imbalance worse?
Look at the dosha food lists.
Introduce the opposite quality.
Example craving heat? Go for something cool, craving dry? Go for something moist.
Are you able to take just one?
Something I often recommend trying is whether you can stick to just eating one. For example, if you are craving chocolate, can you stick to just eating one square? If so, then that might be okay. If not, it is a craving of your imbalance.
Three tips to help with intuitive eating
Eat natural sweets like; dates and honey. If the going gets tough and you have a long day, I recommend eating natural snacks, like a date. Please don't overdo it. One or two is enough. Make sure it isn't within 3 hours of your meal not to compromise your digestion.
Do not over-spice. We might crave (like attracts like) particular tastes like salt, spicy, sour, or sugar; we might add this taste a little too much into our meals. Resulting in further imbalance. Making sure to add all six spices in small quantities and implementing the 60/40 augmenting/ extractive method would be a good way to go.
Eat three freshly cooked meals during the day. To keep digestion and Agni strong (read more here), eating three freshly cooked meals is recommended. This will help balance the dosha's, resulting in a smaller chance of falling into intuitive eating patterns that will harm your body.
The quick fix
As you can read above, there aren't any quick fixes. Intuitive eating can be risky in the long run; this can cause unwanted symptoms like menstrual problems, hormonal imbalances, and disease. To not give in to cravings, it is essential to find opposites to bring balance. It is not difficult. It is just looking at it from another perspective.
*If you need help or if you recognise yourself in the above example. You are always free and welcome to reach out.