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The Answer to Why We Crave the Worst Foods

  • Published on: 05 March, 2018
  • Last update: 15 October, 2018

Since you guys loved my Ashwagandha post so much, I have one more lesson from K.P. Khalsa’s class on Ayurveda that I had to share with you.

It’s the answer to a question I’ve been pondering for YEARS.

MY QUESTION:

Why are people drawn to the things that are the worst for them?

For example, I’m quite “kapha” in Ayurveda: slow, steady, dense, oily (skin), and flexible (lubricated joints). I should be eating light, bitter foods to balance my dosha, but my cravings are for moistening, heavy foods like oatmeal that further increase my kapha characteristics.

My boyfriend is “vata”: quick, creative, slim, dry (skin), and stiff (joints). He should be eating dense, grounding and oily foods for balance, yet his cravings are for bitter, dry foods like greens and lemons.

Why do we want to eat things that drive us farther away from balance?

HIS ANSWER:

“When you’re born, you have a particular type of neurochemistry and a body that ‘feels a certain way’ (normal) to you. You have certain gifts because of that neurochemistry and hormone balance, along with certain deficits as well. Because of this, you begin to do the things that you’re naturally the best at. In the case of “vata,” it’s creativity. In the case of “pitta,” it’s athleticism and productivity. In the case of “kapha,” it’s stamina & steadiness. Once you find the things that you’re best at, you do more and more of them fueled by positive reinforcement from the people around you.

Take a 3 year old (vata) who starts drawing. His parents say, “Look! Little Johnny can already draw a stick figure. He’s way ahead of his cousin.” More family members are going to encourage Johnny to draw, and he’s going to get better and faster. Then what does he get for Christmas? An art set with a bunch of colored pencils – so he’s going to get even better. That’s what he likes to do and he’s good at, so he continues to develop that.

Subconsciously, he discovers that certain types of foods enhance his ability and promote a certain type of hormone balance in his brain (in this case, CREATIVITY). Gradually, he will develop a lifestyle by the time he’s an adult based on how he learned that certain types of foods enhance the ‘natural being’ of who he is and allow him to be even more like himself. We crave the things we are.

As another example, let’s look at me: kapha. I grew up on a farm and was Mr. Cheese as a kid. Cheese and I don’t get along very well, and I know that now which is why I no longer have sinus problems. Anyway, stamina is my hallmark. I’m known as the guy who can keep going forever. Eventually I’m gonna burn out, but if I ate a bowl of 12 bubbling cheese enchiladas I could go for another 8 hours teaching. However, I couldn’t waddle out that door if I ate that consistently… so I’m attracted to those things, but I can no longer eat them. I discovered what it felt like to be balanced, instead of just having unlimited stamina from cheese.

In the case of vata people, WHITE SUGAR is their thing instead of cheese. It doesn’t give them gas, they get euphoric from it, it gives them energy, they can digest it immediately, and they can be kind of spaced out and do their art thing. So we create this environment… this lifestyle… and this chemistry where we’re inclined to go for things that make us more of who we already are, even though they cause us problems at the same time. The older you get, the more these foods create problems in your body.

Take my last example of “Bob” who works at the Saw Mill slinging sheets of plywood for 8 hours a day. He can do that like a robot, one after another. He’s worked there for 40 years and when he retires he’s gonna get a gold stationwagon – classic kapha scenario. The boss comes in to ask if he can throw a double shift, and Bob says sure because he needs the money. Then the boss asks if he can do a THIRD shift in a row, to which Bob says, “Sure but first I’ve gotta have some cheese enchiladas from the diner.” He comes back and can do ANOTHER 8 hour shift because his stamina is enhanced… however, his cholesterol is 300, his triglycerides are elevated and he’s on the verge of heart disease. All because of his diet. Ideally, he should be eating the things he DOESN’T want like lemon, greens, and bitters in order to not have heart disease. The problem is that he may only be able to do 2 shifts instead of 3 if he eats a healthy, balancing diet.

Our tendency to push these things in ourselves comes from a culture that rewards people for extremes. The Oscars are coming up and we’ll nominate 8 movies to be the best picture, right? But only ONE movie can win. We have a culture that is very much black and white, so that’s what people want – to push it to the max – because there’s no reward for the most balanced life. There’s rewards for the biggest achievement, the darling of the New York art scene, or the kapha person that worked 49 hours straight. That’s what you get rewarded for. You get a raise when you do that kinda stuff.

But leading balanced lives? Balance just doesn’t sound like it would feel good to people. It actually feels great when you get there, but then in the back of their minds people dream, “if I wasn’t eating this way, I could done more. I could have been the carpenter that pounded even MORE nails, the painter that painted the MOST paintings.”

We go for what we already are. Our cravings are for things that make us more like us – instead of making us like the balanced person we could be.”

MY CLOSING THOUGHTS

This resonated to my core. It helped me understand why it’s so hard to break our “bad habits” – because those habits bring us comfort by making us more like us. By resonating with our neurochemistry. By keeping us in a place where we’re comfortable. This is a big reason why our parents are so ‘stuck in their ways’ and reluctant to change their diets even if they’re on a slew of prescription medications. They want to be the people they’ve always been and be able to do the things they’ve always done. Change is scary for everyone, young or old.

It also gives me a better idea of “intuitive eating.” Should you listen to your body when it wants a certain food? Absolutely! But you should also be aware of where that voice is coming from. Is your body longing for a short term ‘craving’ that will make you feel good temporarily, like Bob’s cheese enchiladas? Or is your body asking for a warm bowl of lentil soup because it will make you feel grounded, warm, and calm (and thus, support your health and well-being in the long run)?

Balance is everything, and I for one will be listening to what my body needs to feel its best – not what it needs in order to push itself to the limit. Just because I can blog for another 6 hours if I have 3 cups of coffee doesn’t mean I *should* have that coffee (or do that blogging). Yes, I may miss out on some good posts (aka opportunities to do “more” or be “more” in my business), but if it’s pushing me to the max and throwing me off balance, it’s simply not worth it. xx

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