A recurring theme for clients who come to see me for help and advice is that they want to know how to manage their cravings – especially for unhealthy, processed and sweet food and drink. In the dark days of winter and as we begin a new year, many of us are thinking about areas in our lives we’d like to change or improve. There’s no doubt about the many benefits to our health when we choose to eat a healthier diet.
Lots of people describe sweet cravings as one of the hardest aspects of balancing weight and I use a variety of therapies and techniques to help people – hypnotherapy, EFT and Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). I’d like to give you a little information about managing cravings from the TCM perspective. According to TCM all foods have a distinct energy and characteristic properties that either help to balance our bodies and make us healthy, or create imbalances which ultimately result in sickness. Bear in mind that TCM views our body systems and organ functions quite differently from Western medicine so when I talk about your Spleen I’m describing it from a TCM perspective.
The first thing perhaps to say is that according to TCM a craving for something sweet is usually driven by a need to feel nurtured and to nourish our ‘Spleen’. Think about how you feel when you crave something sweet… sad, perhaps fearful, unloved, feeling the need to nurture and comfort yourself. The Spleen’s function in TCM is to transform water and food into ‘qi’ or energy. The Spleen meridian is associated with the sweet flavour hence the reason that so many of us crave sweet things if we are feeling weak or tired. In TCM the Spleen also reflects how grounded and safe we feel. When the Spleen is functioning well we have a good appetite, strong digestion, and vibrant energy. When this function is weak you will see issues such as bloating, reflux, fatigue, diarrhoea, poor appetite and/or malnutrition. When the Spleen is out of balance it often manifests as someone being overweight or underweight. We can also feel:
- drained, depleted,
- lacking a sense of comfort and well-being,
- difficulty setting boundaries within ourselves and with others,
- fuzzy headed, unable to think clearly,
- worry, ruminating thoughts and a tendency to obsess.
So, our craving of sweet foods is our body’s way of trying to help bring us back into balance – it’s asking (craving) ‘sweet’ food to help restore energy levels . The aim of TCM is to work with our cravings – welcoming them and satisfying them in a healthy way to restore balance. In TCM therefore, fundamentally it is not what we need to avoid but in fact what we need to include that balances us. Instead of ‘nurturing’ our Spleens with refined sugar and processed foods (these may taste sweet but confuse and actively deplete our Spleens), there are some healthy ‘sweet’ alternatives you can add to your diet that will help nurture your Spleen and manage those cravings:
warm and cooked – thick hearty stews and soups, squash, carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, parsnips, ginger, cauliflower, sprouts, cabbage, peppers, onions, oats, rice, quinoa, pearl barley, beans and pulses, olive oil, chicken, turkey, white fish, salmon, eggs, mangoes, apples and berries.
Experiment with different ingredients…. you can be as imaginative as you like. Here are some dishes I make regularly during the winter months to feed my Spleen 🙂
At this time of year there can be nothing better than sitting down to a delicious bowl of warm soup or hearty stew, or delicious warm dessert, with a few extra added ingredients (ginger, chilli, berries, sweet potatoes, squash…), that you know your body needs and will use effectively to warm, nurture and nourish your body. You’ll soon find that you have no interest in grabbing a quick, guilt laden snack that will ultimately only increase that drained, depleted feeling.
Be happy – feed your Spleen!