By Jane Barthelemy. Something amazing happened last week. My cravings vanished, and my body released all that stress. OMG, this is the happy balance I’ve been wanting for years! Finally it happened! All week, there was no craving for sweets, no moodiness or familiar addictive message demanding chips or chocolate. Nope. Just quiet balance. It happened to me. I’m living in a new universe, so I know it’s possible. That’s why I’m writing this article for you. You can do it too.
Most of us have food addictions or cravings that indicate an imbalance. Billion dollar marketing budgets work to sustain these cravings. If you don’t believe me, just watch most people in the grocery store – it’s a symphony of addiction and response. We’re like Pavlov’s dogs craving that reward. Well it’s over for me, and you can do it too.
What flavor do you crave? Sweet, spicy, salty, sour, or bitter? The flavor you crave reveals volumes about your psychology and your food addictions. When you’re under stress, do you go for chips, or a cupcake? Take this simple self-test. It’s like a health horoscope. Choose your favorite flavor to discover your emotional tendencies and weak spots. This simple awareness gives you the power to change them.
Cravings are a clear indicator that something’s seriously out of balance. It could be in your body – or your life. If you notice your cravings carefully, they will reveal the weak points in your emotions and your health. Once you can observe your weaknesses, it’s much easier to resolve them. When you’re the boss, not your cravings, you can never be controlled, and you’re a free person.
For example, you just had an argument with your best friend and you feel an empty pain. What do you go for? Ice Cream? A Chocolate Bar? Hot Chili Nachos? or Salty Cheetos? Our most common response is emotional eating. However if you stop and observe yourself in that moment, you can turn it around to your advantage. You can actually use your cravings to learn about yourself, to heal yourself and your life. We’ve all got something to work on, or we wouldn’t be here. It’s our job to find what it is and balance it.
In Chinese Medicine there are Five Flavors.
- Sweet – Energy bars, cookies, cake, bread, carbs, sugar, sweet fruits
- Spicy (Pungent) – Ginger, hot chili, garlic, onion
- Salty – Soy Sauce, salt, chips, salted nuts, popcorn, liquid aminos
- Sour – Lemon, lime, vinegar, fermented foods
- Bitter – Coffee, chocolate, dark leafy greens
Which one of the 5 flavors describes you best?
1. The Sweet Tooth
In your weak moments, do you go for Carrot Cake? Strawberry Yogurt, or Chocolate Mousse? A desire for sugars, grains, and sweet fruits often goes along with a tendency to worry. Sweet flavors are associated with the element of Earth. A little bit of sweet can be beneficial – it can nourish your energy, enrich the blood, and banish worry. But if you overdo it, too much sweet can lead to a cycle of slow metabolism, worry, and damage to the pancreas or spleen. Examples of sugar-related imbalances caused by too many sweets are: diabetes, obesity, poor memory, no concentration, lethargy, moodiness, overeating, anorexia, and accelerated aging.
Too much sweet can lead to slow metabolism, worry, moodiness, diabetes, obesity, and accelerated aging.
To heal sweet cravings and eliminate worry, consider limiting sweets, reducing or cutting out grains from your diet. Use exercise to speed up the metabolism, and make sure to enjoy foods of the other four flavors at each meal. Find a good five-element acupuncturist. Consider a regular qigong practice, which balances all the elements within the energetic body. If you’re on the Paleo or Low-Carb Diet and eat no sweets at all, it’s understandable that you might be craving them. That can create stress and worry. Make sure you get a bit of sweetness at each meal, and it doesn’t have to be a high-carb sugar. Check out my books Paleo Desserts and Good Morning Paleo. Read my research articles on sweeteners, such as 5 Top Paleo Sweeteners, What are the Best Paleo Sweeteners?, and 325 Sweeteners, Which One is Best?. Check out the zero-glycemic natural sweeteners I recommend, Just Like Sugar – Table Top natural chicory root, and PureLo Lo Han sweetener. One of the main purposes of my books and blog is to help people enjoy healthy sweets without negative health consequences.
2. Spicy & Hot Cravings!
Say you’re upset because you just got rejected for a job you really wanted, and you caught a cold. What do you go for? Spicy Black Bean Chips? Southwest Pepper Sausage? Or Hot Chicken McBites? Spicy cravings are associated with the element of Metal. If you desire spicy foods like hot chili peppers, ginger, garlic, or onion, Chinese medicine says your primary emotion could be hidden grief or depression. A small amount of spicy food at each meal can be beneficial – it can clear blood stagnation, support the lungs, and dissolve sadness. But if you eat too much spicy food, it may damage lungs and large intestine. Signs of an imbalance in spicy foods are: a common cold, respiratory allergies, bronchitis, pneumonia, asthma, skin problems, constipation, shallow breathing, colitis, chronic or unexplained sadness.
Too much spicy food can lead to respiratory issues and elimination problems.
You can heal spicy cravings and build happiness. Limit spicy foods, and focus more on the other four flavors. Try an activity that opens the lungs and intestines, such as walking in nature. Find a good five-element acupuncturist. Consider a regular Qigong practice, which balances all the elements within the energetic body.
3. Are you the Salty type?
Your motorcycle won’t start, it’s raining, and your doctor just diagnosed you with a bladder infection. What do you grab first? Barbara’s Cheese Puffs? Chinese Crispy Chicken Wings? or Newman’s Organic Salted Pretzels? Salty flavors are associated with the element of Water. If you crave salty foods like soy sauce, salty chips, and seaweed snacks, Chinese medicine says your primary emotion may be fear. A small amount of salt can be good for you – it can clear body heat, resolve toxins, and reduce inflammation and fear. However too much salt can lead to hypertension, kidney problems, cardiovascular disease, and a cycle of fear-motivated actions. Signs of an imbalance in salty foods are kidney and bladder issues, bone and teeth problems, loss of hearing, dark rings under the eyes, and fears or phobias.
Too much salt can lead to high blood pressure, kidney problems, and cardiovascular disease.
You can heal craving for salty foods and eliminate fear. Limit salty foods in favor of the other flavors. When you feel fear, imagine yourself turning to face it directly and deal with it – eventually it will dissolve before your eyes. It also helps to reassure yourself that everything is in perfect order and you are safe. Learn about EFT, Emotional Freedom Technique, a powerful self-healing tool you can use anytime. Check your water quality and daily intake to make sure it’s optimal, not too much or too little. Find a good five-element acupuncturist. Consider a regular qigong practice. Qigong cultivates energy reserves in the kidneys, which are considered the source of our life stamina, and the genetic raw material we have to work with.
4. Do You Crave Sour Foods?
When you’re feeling down, do you feel like having Chinese hot and sour soup? a lemon wedge straight-up? Or do you eat a jar of kosher dill pickles? Sour flavors are associated with the element of Wood. If you crave sour foods, such as vinegar, lemon, lime, or fermented foods, Chinese wisdom says your primary emotion may be anger. Anger isn’t necessarily overt or violent – it can turn inward and lie dormant on the inside, creating stress and disease. A little sour food can strengthen the liver and promote healthy digestion. But too much sour food can damage the liver, the digestion, and weaken muscle tone. Signs of imbalance in sour foods are stiff, tight muscles and joints, visual problems, dry eyes, eyestrain, vertex headaches and migraines, especially from excessive computer work.
Too much sour food can damage the liver, eyes, joints, and weaken muscle tone.
You can heal sour cravings and unresolved anger at the same time. Eat less sour foods and enjoy the four other flavors at each meal. Make sure you’re eating healthy fats, such as olive oil and coconut oil, not hydrogenated or processed fats, or extracted seed oils like safflower, canola, or sunflower oils. Consider a gentle yoga practice that loosens the bones and joints. Try a detox cleanse to give your liver a break. Take frequent exercise breaks away from the computer. Find a good five-element acupuncturist. Practice “Healing Sounds” Qigong, which can transform anger into kindness. Be kind to yourself, and the world will reciprocate.
5. Do You Go for Bitter Foods?
When the chips are down and you’re feeling blue, what’s your first desire? Do you go for black coffee? How about a cold beer? If you crave bitter foods such as unsweetened coffee, bitter chocolate, citrus peel, leafy greens, or beer, your hidden emotion might be sadness, or even its exact opposite – excess joy out of control. The bitter flavor is associated with the Fire element, the experience of love and all affairs of the heart. A little bitter flavor can clear excess fire and improve blood circulation. However too much bitter food can impair sexual performance and disturb the heart – not good for coffee junkies! Possible examples of fire imbalances are: inappropriate laughter, speech difficulty, sleep problems, heart disease, sexual impotence, and serious jet lag after travel.
Easy on the coffee, wild one! Too much bitter food can weaken the heart and impair sexual performance.
You can heal a bitter craving and any emotional imbalance.
Make sure you’re eating the other four flavors at each meal. Go easy on the black coffee. Take deep relaxation breaks and vacations to find balance, and bring that into your daily life. Look for opportunities to heal the fire element by turning it into joy. Find a good five-element acupuncturist. Consider a regular qigong practice, which balances all the elements within the energetic body.
6. Do your cravings change from one flavor to another?
Today you crave sweets. Tomorrow you want salty chips. In this case, your system is almost in equilibrium. True balance is dynamic and constantly changing. Follow the recommendations for the particular craving you’re feeling in the moment. Refine your health even more with regular acupuncture and a qigong practice. Here’s a diagram to help you visualize the five flavors with the five elements.
Learn to Balance the Five Flavors: Sweet, Spicy, Salty, Sour, and Bitter.
How does it feel to live in balance?
Well, it’s great because you can’t be controlled by food industry marketing hype. When you’re in balance with the five flavors, you feel more alive. Your body can listen to the signals around you and inside you, to build deep and secure health. Your level of sensitivity is higher, your emotional balance is stable. You’re strong and adaptable. The moodiness and crazy desire around food disappears. When when actually eat a sweet, you enjoy the flavor more, without that edge of addiction or craving. When your body wants a salty food, you get to savor it! Just like Yin and Yang turn endlessly, the 5 elements are constantly balancing each other round and round inside our bodies and in the environment. A cycle in balance leads to wisdom and true relationship to your self. I am saying that refining your relationship to food can bring you closer to enlightenment. Those are big words. Let me know your thoughts!
Yin and Yang turn endlessly. The 5 elements and 5 flavors are constantly balancing each other round and round, like changing colors inside our bodies, in the Earth, and our environment. Refining your relationship to food is an important part of living as a true human being.
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