One woman who lives in Dublin approaches food from a traditional Chinese medicine perspective.
She has an answer for why we crave sweet things: we are looking for satisfaction and mothering, but in the wrong place.
A mum of three, Joanne Faulkner, who has written a book called Shiatsu & The Art of Conscious Cooking, and gives classes and workshops on that theme, says when it comes to the relationship between our bodies and food, we should ask ourselves two questions: How am I feeling? And: What am I craving/needing?
“In shiatsu — which comes from shi (finger) and atsu (pressure) — and traditional Chinese medicine, food and drink are used for dietary healing and support.
"The body is classified into yin/ yang organ pairs and meridians (pathways) which correspond to emotions, flavours, seasons and colours,” she says.
Whichever of the five flavours — sweet, bitter, sour, salty or pungent — that we crave in any moment, can give us information, therefore, about our emotional state and which organ in our bodies needs that support.
For example sweet cravings are linked to the stomach and the spleen; the season is late summer when there is an abundance of food harvested; the colour orange (such as in carrots, sweet potatoes) and the emotional need is to seek mothering comfort and satisfaction.
Joanne herself experienced this first hand in relation to sweet cravings at age 34 after she qualified as a shiatsu practitioner and was a new mother of twins, Aaron and Zeph, born 14 years ago.
She had put up 32kg while pregnant and delivered babies weighing 2.8kg and 2.9kg.
“When I had the twins I lost a lot of blood and it took a long time to get it back up. I was constantly craving the comfort of chocolate.
"I’m only five foot and after I had them I was 14 stone [89kg], so really large for my height. I had haemorrhaged when I had the babies and my body was in shock.”
The spleen in Chinese medicine is responsible for making blood but Joanne says her
emotional needs were also evident by her sweet cravings: “I was
giving, giving, giving to the babies and I wasn’t getting or receiving anything back... it was like a bottomless pit.”
Her shiatsu teacher brought her back from that brink and made special soups for her that helped break the sweet cycle.
“That was the turning point when I really, really understood what I had been learning,” says Joanne.
She also had experience of cooking for large groups, so it seemed inevitable that with her shiatsu training and love of food, she would end up combining both skills under the one philosophy: “It’s what I truly knew and understood”.
In addition to her Conscious Cooking classes, Joanne is launching an online video course, How To Stop Sweet Cravings.
“This course will help you tune into your body, translating your emotions, cravings and desires into understanding what is going on inside, giving yourself what you need and loving yourself completely,” she says.
“Using everyday ingredients, participants can watch me make and then download the recipes to stop the sweet cravings. They will also learn the acupressure points on the body that generate energy and subdue cravings.”
Conscious eating is about being aware of our patterns, as everyone is different, says Joanne.
Reaching out for something sweet is okay, but when we are eating too much of it, or can’t stop, we need to realise that food can’t, in that situation “fill the hole inside you that needs to be met”.
It is then we need to check in with ourselves and ask those two questions mentioned earlier that she recommended.
They can be found on an interactive app online which links to her book which sends you to recipes, meditations, acupressure points and traditional Chinese medicine that “suit your mood, satiate your craving or alleviate physical symptoms”.
Food as medicine indeed!
* For link to online app see: www.shiatsu-consciouscooking.com/app
* To find out more about the online course see www.shiatsuconsciouscooking.com
* To buy the book and to find out more about Joanne see: www.joannefaulkner.org